The anti-mass migration Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) leader Heinz-Christian Strache has hit back against claims his party helps spread so-called “fake news” saying the government has created enough of it on its own.
The FPÖ party leader denounced the “Hoaxmap” initiative which claims to report alleged rumours spread primarily through social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, and retaliated to claims his party is the largest promoters of rumours saying the government of Austria produces its own “fake news,” reports Kurier.
Strache asserted the government has used deceptive techniques over the past few years to hide the extent of crimes and criminality by manipulating statistics. He also stated many Austrians have been put in employment courses by the government in order to keep the appearance of the unemployment rate low. Despite these attempts, the unemployment rate has gone up significantly over the past year.
He also said the migrant background of many criminals has been covered up by the government, though earlier this month they admitted rapes committed by migrants had increased 133 per cent over the past year. According to Strache, the government had also, since 2014, counted prostitution, which is largely legal in Austria, and drug trafficking in economic reports to make the GDP numbers look better.
“More fake news is hardly possible politically,” said Strache.
The FPÖ also exposed the “fake news” by the government that the asylum seeker ceiling of 37,500 people had not yet been reached. According to a bill passed earlier in 2016, once the ceiling is reached the government must close the border to any new asylum seekers.
The populist party forced the Interior Ministry to reveal that the real number of migrants who crossed into Austria last year was over 120,000 with regions like Carinthia having 74,000 border crossings alone.
Strache called social media a “blessing” for democracy and said that it serves to correct mistakes made by the government or media. “If you want to stifle this public discourse, you do not understand democracy,” he said.
Not everyone agrees with the populist politician. German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the German government would crack down on “fake news” claiming the Russian government will try to influence the 2017 German federal election.
The German Interior Ministry has also declared that it will set up a new branch to combat fake news that some see as an Orwellian “Ministry of Truth” in all but name. The project, labelled the “defence centre against disinformation,” is set to combat what the government deems to be false information ahead of the election which is set for the Autumn.