1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites
Heiko Maas with a smartphone
Image: Getty Images/A. Berry
Politics

Fake news might affect 2017 election: Maas

November 28, 2016

Justice Minister Heiko Maas has said Germans "must reckon" with the idea that internet-based misinformation could play a part in the 2017 federal election. MPs from Merkel's CDU party will be briefed on the issue Monday.

https://p.dw.com/p/2TLM4

Justice Minister Heiko Maas has said he fears false information spread online could unfairly influence next year's Bundestag election campaign.

Maas is the latest public figure to voice such concerns, following revelations that social media networks helped spread false and malicious information in the lead-up to November's presidential election in the United States. "The Washington Post" has said Russia was behind the effort.

It's not clear if fake news and propaganda helped sway the US election in any way; however, millions of people around the world get their news through what's shared on Facebook and other social media sites.

Facebook and Google have said they are tightening up the spread of misinformation on their sites.

One development that has concerned lawmakers is the spread of so-called "social bots" - software that can mimic human behavior on social media sites by publishing messages or liking posts.

There is growing alarm over the influence of social bots on potential voters.

It has also been reported that Germany's far-right, populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) has flagged its intention to use social bots as part of its campaign strategy next year.

'Dark side of the internet'

"Unfortunately, this is a dark side of the internet, a side we have to deal with more intensively," Maas said. According to the minister, the spread of misinformation would best be countered by greater transparency - calling on social media networks, like Facebook, to disclose the basics of their business and information practices.

Maas' comments come as MPs from Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party prepare to be briefed on the issue on Monday. Last week, Merkel announced her intention to run for a fourth term in office.

"Merkel is really interested in the topic of bots and fake news and hate speech on the internet and she's very well informed," said Simon Hegelich, a Munich-based professor of political data science, whom Merkel has invited to Berlin.

Hegelich said the impact of social bots on the democratic process has yet to be fully researched, but those with extremist and radical opinions can often outgun more moderate voices.

"Suddenly the whole picture is distorted and society appears to be totally polarized," Hegelich said.

jr/cmk (Reuters, EPD)

Skip next section Explore more
Skip next section Related topics
Skip next section DW's Top Story

DW's Top Story

An off-shore wind farm off the coast of Germany

IEA predicts renewable energy to overtake coal by 2025

Skip next section More stories from DW
Go to homepage