The World’s Strongmen Continue to Bend Social Media to Their Will

The Cambodian People’s Party created its Cyber War Room about a decade ago. The goal was to support Prime Minister Hun Sen’s regime through social media propagandizing. Led by the prime minister’s son Hun Manet, a troll army used Facebook and other digital platforms to attack his father’s opposition with disinformation and even allegedly wield death threats.

Fast forward to the Cambodian election taking place next month. The CPP’s Cyber War Room is back up and running. General Manet, commander of the Cambodian Army and most likely the country’s next prime minister, is reportedly back at the helm, this time defending his father’s legacy and himself.

Facebook is extremely popular in Cambodia, with roughly 12 million of the country’s almost 17 million people on the site. Many people in Cambodia use Facebook as a core means of getting information, and social media platforms are critical for the few journalists still producing independent reporting. The populations of many other countries where governments have continually used social media for manipulation, including the Philippines and Turkey, rely heavily on Facebook as well. So why has state-sponsored trolling like this been allowed to endure for 10 years?

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