Fake news ahead of federal election: what’s the danger? |

Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) stresses that everything will be done to ensure an election campaign without influence. The citizens themselves are called upon in an election year to be particularly critical and to check the credibility of the information: “The preparation for the election and the conduct of the election are safe. This particularly applies to voting and counting. His ministry “for security reasons does not want to provide more details” on the extent of the personnel costs necessary to protect the election.

The BSI has developed guidelines designed to educate those who may be affected – and, depending on the acute situation, may find it difficult to escape investigation. In July, BSI chairman Arne Schönbohm reported a hacker attack on municipal IT in a district of Saxony-Anhalt. These networks are also the personal data control centers for voting. Even though voting is done on paper, the before and after processes are IT related. Following the attack, the Federal Office offered an information event for municipalities and districts – nearly 300 representatives registered. “What makes us very careful”, says Schönbohm, “is the daily increase in malware (AdR malware)”.

According to experts, the greatest danger does not come from manipulated accounts, but from disinformation. 60 experts were interviewed by the Vodafone Foundation during the election year – two-thirds expect fake news to have an impact on citizens’ political attitudes. In addition to social media platforms, messaging services in particular have become increasingly important during the pandemic. According to experts, particularly affected: the elderly. There is not enough awareness of dangerous sources of information and fake news.

The federal government is convinced that its security mechanisms are sufficient to guarantee an inviolable election. Voting at the polling station and sending the voting documents is recorded in the register, so everyone can only vote once, they say. About 650,000 election officials counted the ballots publicly and in a verifiable manner. Technically, influencing the end result is ruled out. In the event of justified doubts, there is the possibility of recounting individual districts.

Germany particularly affected by disinformation

Beginnings: Propaganda has been aimed at influencing the climate of opinion in hostile states since ancient times. In the two world wars of the 20th century and during the Cold War, disinformation played a particularly important role. Recently, the military aggression against Ukraine in 2014 has been accompanied by targeted information campaigns.

EU response: As a result, EU states set up a task force in Brussels in 2015 for strategic communication in the Eastern Neighborhood. Since then, disinformation campaigns have been documented on EUvsDisinfo.eu – often controlled from Moscow and Beijing. Since 2018, the EU has also been implementing an action plan to fight disinformation – including new obligations for online platforms.

Account: According to the EU task force in March, Germany is particularly affected by Russian disinformation, which is supposed to “create insecurity and sow discord”. A good 700 cases have been documented since 2015, 300 for France, 170 for Italy and 40 for Spain.

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