Fake News Threatens German Elections

The proliferation of fake news in American and European politics is directly affecting public perception of current events and trends. European states, including France, the Netherlands, and, most recently, Germany, have found themselves specifically targeted by Russian campaigns to erode public confidence in their current leaders. Russia conducted these attacks throughout 2017, but they have intensified in February. The problem became so prevalent that the European Community felt compelled to set up an organization called the East StratCom Task Force that deals specifically with Russian intrusion into other states’ domestic politics. The task force discovered that in the past 17 months, more than 2,500 Russian-backed stories that explicitly contradict known facts have run in over 18 languages throughout Europe.

The task force concluded that the fake news stories are the culmination of an organized effort to undermine the integrity of established institutions, namely the media and the government. Germany is particularly susceptible to this fake news campaign because its media tends to be very staid and conventional. This approach seems to leave an opening for sensational, unbased claims like the ones put forth by Russian propagandists.

Fearing a repeat of the American presidential elections, Germany has now taken active precautions to stamp out fake news stories. While Germany recognizes that fake news is a phenomenon not likely to disappear in the near future, the country has proposed laws that would allow the removal of stories that are objectively false. Germany seeks to use methods similar to what Facebook is attempting to implement, which is flagging suspicious reports so that they can be later reviewed. Fact-checkers note the veracity of the story and can alert all German consumers to indicate how truthful it is. Leaders hope that this sort of screening can not only make the public more informed but also mitigate the effects from Russian schemes.