Wave of Right-wing Spam Floods Germany | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 10.06.2004
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Wave of Right-wing Spam Floods Germany

Thursday morning a flood of spam was released on the Internet containing German-language right-wing propaganda. Experts say extremists are using a "spambot" to spread their xenophobic messages as widely as possible.


Right-wingers could be working with virus and worm writers to spread their message.

One of the messages that hit e-mail boxes warned of increasing numbers of immigrants from Turkey and Belarus settling in a town in the state of North Rhein-Westphalia, saying they were driving criminality up and entering into "mixed" relationships with German women.

"Here in Germany, I feel like a stranger in my own country," it read.

Another blamed the rising cost of medical care in Germany on foreigners who come to the country as "medical tourists" to get free health care. Others were entitled "What Germany needs is more German children" and "The Deformation of social order."

Below the bodies of the right-wing messages in the spam flood, many e-mail featured a series of links that led to sites like the extreme right German National Party (NPD), articles that appeared in the right-oriented newspaper "Young Freedom," and various "people's initiatives" which fight such things as the building of mosques in Germany.

These kinds of right-wing messages are nothing new, they can be found in various extreme-right publications at newsstands.

What is new is the method of their distribution -- by spam, or junk e-mail. While most spam, which by current estimates comprises between 60 to 80 percent of e-mail traffic, tries to sells goods from penis enlargement methods to Viagra to college degrees, this latest spam wave simply attempts to spread a right-wing message of xenophobia to as large a group as possible.

New sophistication

The spam flood also shows a new IT sophistication on the part of right-wing groups, since they appear to have used a "spambot," a program spammers use to collect e-mail addresses and hide the real address of the sender, making it hard to trace the origin of the offending spam.

Right-wing groups have used the electronic medium to spread their messages in the past. Currently there are several e-mail newsletters in circulation informing an often unwilling public over the latest out of "Germania."

But these unwelcome e-mails been easy to filter with a few clicks of the mouse to stop any future e-mails originating from a certain address. This latest wave of spam is different.

The mails come from different addresses. Many of those arriving at Deutsche Welle had return addresses such as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of Germany's most respected newspapers, or hotmail.com, a widely used web-based e-mail service.

The newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported 80 percent of the right-wing spam it received came from a server at the University of Rostock, in northeastern Germany. Others came from large networks owned by Deutsche Telekom, several originated in other countries.

Analysts say the right-wing spammers used the latest methods, perhaps even working in tandem with virus programmers, to "seize" other computers and use addresses found there to building large distribution lists. Tracing the originators can be difficult in these cases, although the network administrator at the University of Rostock told Der Spiegel that they have taken the server where many of the e-mails came from offline and will work with IT security experts to trace the spam back to its original source.

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