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With Election Drawing Near, Germany is Concerned About Fake Online News

Angela Merkel urges lawmakers to prevent the spread of misinformation.

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In a speech to the German parliament on Wednesday, chancellor Angela Merkel warned that fake news and bots may influence next year’s German elections. The chancellor, who is seeking a fourth term, said that fake news has manipulated public opinion in Germany and she stated to lawmakers that they need to “confront this phenomenon and if necessary, regulate it.”

“Something has changed — as globalization has marched on, [political] debate is taking place in a completely new media environment. Opinions aren’t formed the way they were 25 years ago,” Merkel said. “Today we have fake sites, bots, trolls — things that regenerate themselves, reinforcing opinions with certain algorithms and we have to learn to deal with them.”

Donald Trump’s victory in the recent US elections has sparked debate about the media’s role in politics. The recent election saw the mainstream news skewed so far that the New York Times actually issued an apology letter, promising to rededicate themselves to “report […] without fear or favor”.  People haven’t been blind to this bias, turning instead to social media for their news; but here, Twitter and Reddit are shamelessly censoring and editing dissenting opinions. With few options left, some have turned to independent news sources like Breitbart news, but here too, the waters are rough: Earlier this week, online advertising exchange AppNexus blacklisted the right-wing news site, which is headed by Trump’s new chief strategist Steve Bannon.

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Chancellor Angela Merkel

And yes, on top of all of this, there are the bots, the fake news stories and the trolls. A good example is the recent “PizzaGate” incident which circulated a bogus news story about Hillary Clinton being involved in a child trafficking ring. But perhaps it isn’t the actual trolls Merkel has a problem with: German officials sharply criticized Facebook for failing to censor hate speech, perhaps in response to the rise of the right wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which opposes her Christian Democrats’ (CD) open-border refugee policies. The AfD currently has 300k likes on Facebook, compared to the CD’s 240k.

Regardless of the reasons for wanting regulation, honorable or otherwise, perhaps we should learn to sift through the nonsense, as opposed to enacting laws to silence those who don’t speak the right words.

source: AFP via Yahoo News

David F.
A grad student in experimental physics, David is fascinated by science, space and technology. When not buried in lecture books, he enjoys movies, gaming and mountainbiking

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