The German Interior Ministry has announced its intention to combat so-called “fake news” on social media by setting up a “defence centre against disinformation,” ahead of next year’s federal election.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière has expressed concern over what the government deems to be “fake news” ahead of the federal election next year. The ministry has made what some may consider to be a Orwellian proposal to counter the issues.
A new arm of the ministry will be created to defend against fake news, with one member of the ministry saying the defence centre against disinformation “should be negotiated very quickly,” Der Spiegel reports.
According to the Interior Ministry, the rise of fake news could directly influence the federal election and some even claim the presidential election in the U.S. had been heavily influenced by the spread of rumours on social media platforms. “The acceptance of a post-fact age would be equivalent to a political capitulation,” the ministry officials said.
According to the ministry, the most susceptible groups to false information and rumour are those from the Russian-German community and those living in Germany with a Turkish background. Earlier this year, Russian-Germans were outraged by a report that said a 13-year-old girl had been raped by an asylum seeker, and while there have been multiple cases of asylum seekers sexually abusing underage children over the past year, the girl admitted the story had been made up.
The crackdown on free speech in Germany, particularly on social media, has already been met with controversy. The government was criticised by many after it was revealed they were partnering with the Amadeu Antonio Foundation whose head Anette Kahane was a former spy for the infamous East German intelligence service the Stasi.
Communist political oppression academic and Stasi expert Dr. Hubertus Knabe was one of those who slammed the government for working with Ms. Kahane saying she was unfit to lead any task force charged with censoring speech online.
The proposal by the Interior Ministry comes after German Chancellor Angela Merkel remarked last month that she suspected the Russian government would try and influence the 2017 federal election through social media propaganda. “We are already, even now, having to deal with information out of Russia or with internet attacks that are of Russian origin or with news which sows false information,” she said.
The enforcement of so-called hate speech laws online has also had a direct impact on the lives of many ordinary Germans. Raids have been carried out by police across the country on homes of those suspected to have written negative comments online about asylum seekers which have led to fines and even prison sentences.