The government of Germany is considering imposing a legal regime that would allow fining social networks such as Facebook up to 500,000 euros ($522,000) for each day the platform leaves a “fake news” story up without deleting it.
GERMANY – In the name of combating harms from false news, the German government next year will consider the bill, which has bipartisan support, that will allow both official and private complainants to flag content that is considered “fake news”.
The law would also force the social networks to create in-country offices focused on responding to takedown demands and would make these networks responsible for compensation if a post by individual users were found to slander someone.
“If after the relevant checks Facebook does not immediately, within 24 hours, delete the offending post then [it] must reckon with severe penalties of up to 500,000 euros,” said Germany’s parliamentary chief of the Social Democrat party, Thomas Oppermann in an interview with Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine.
German lawmakers believe this bill will help tackle the possibility of Russia meddling in Parliamentary elections scheduled for next year. This follows the allegations that the Kremlin was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee that led to the leak of thousands of emails by key aides to Hillary Clinton.
The German intelligence agency has warned that Russia could try to undermine the elections next year by employing automated bots on social media to spread fake news articles.
Some members of the government have advocated criminalizing the spread of so-called “fake news”. Patrick Sensburg, a senior MP in Merkel’s party said recently: “Targeting disinformation to destabilize a state should be a criminal offence.”
Hans-Georg Maassen, the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, told Bild am Sonntag: “Facebook is earning an awful lot of money with fake news.” He added: “A company that earns billions from the internet also has a social responsibility.”
Fake news website
Fake news websites (also referred to as hoax news) deliberately publish hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation, using social media to drive web traffic and amplify their effect. Unlike news satire, fake news websites seek to mislead, rather than entertain, readers for financial or other gain. Such sites have promoted political falsehoods in Germany, Indonesia and the Philippines, Sweden, China, Myanmar, and the United States. Many sites originate, or are promoted, from Russia, Macedonia, Romania, and the U.S.
One pan-European newspaper, The Local, described the proliferation of fake news as a form of psychological warfare. Agence France-Presse reported media analysts see it as damaging to democracy. The European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs in 2016 when it passed a resolution warning that the Russian government was using “pseudo-news agencies” and Internet trolls as disinformation propaganda to weaken confidence in democratic values.
In 2015, the Swedish Security Service, Sweden’s national security agency, issued a report concluding Russia was using fake news to inflame “splits in society” through the proliferation of propaganda. Sweden’s Ministry of Defence tasked its Civil Contingencies Agency to combat fake news from Russia. Fraudulent news affected politics in Indonesia and the Philippines, where there was simultaneously widespread usage of social media and limited resources to check the veracity of political claims. German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned of the societal impact of “fake sites, bots, trolls”.
Fraudulent articles spread through social media during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Several officials within the U.S. Intelligence Community said that Russia was engaged in spreading fake news. Computer security company FireEyeconcluded Russia used social media as cyberwarfare. Google and Facebook banned fake sites from using online advertising. Facebook launched a partnership with fact-checking websites to flag fraudulent news and hoaxes; debunking organizations that joined the initiative included: Snopes.com, FactCheck.org, and PolitiFact. U.S. President Barack Obama said a disregard for facts created a “dust cloud of nonsense”. Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) Alex Younger called fake news propaganda online dangerous for democratic nations.