Because the rise in popularity of alternative and populist candidates in Germany and elsewhere around the world can't possibly by a legitimate rejection of politicians who simply skewed policies too far to the left over the past decade, Germany and Facebook have announced an accelerated effort to crack down on "Fake News" (i.e. anything that is deemed critical of Angela Merkel) ahead the country's elections in September. Just like in the U.S., Facebook's crackdown in Germany will enlist the support of 3rd-party "fact checkers" who will flag stories as "disputed" if they're found to include "fake" or "misleading" content. The Financial Times:
German users of the social network will now be able to report a story as fake and it will be sent to Correctiv, a third-party fact checker. If the fact checker discovers it is fake, the story will be flagged as “disputed”, with an explanation. Disputed stories will not be prioritised by the news feed algorithm and people will receive a warning if they decide to share it.
Facebook said it had been in discussions with German media and publishing groups and was working to get more partners on board. “Our focus is on Germany right now but we’re certainly thinking through what countries will unveil next,” he said.
Of course, as we pointed out a few weeks ago, similar efforts to enlist the help a third-party, "independent" fact checker in the U.S., Poynter, drew some scrutiny after a quick google search revealed that they are funded by none other than George Soros' Open Society Foundation, which can be accused of many things, but political impartiality is not one of them. From our previous post:
A quick review of Poynter's website reveals that the organization is funded by the who's who of leftist billionaires including George Soros' Open Society Foundations, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Google, and Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar's Omidyar Network. Well that seem fairly bipartisan, right?
As we pointed out a couple of weeks ago, Germany is actively considering a number of laws that could impose fines of up to €500,000 and 5 years in jail for the distribution of "fake news" with justice minister Heiko Maas saying that "social networks have a duty" to censor "lies and hate campaigns."
The German government announced last month it was planning a law that would impose fines of up to €500,000 on Facebook for distributing fake news. Angela Merkel, chancellor, has warned there are signs that online attacks and misinformation coming from Russia could “play a role in the election campaign”.
In an interview with Welt Am Sonntag on Sunday, Heiko Maas, Germany’s justice minister, warned that fake news posed a “danger to our culture of debate”, and added that, in extreme cases, those responsible could face up to five years in jail.
“But social networks also have a duty,” he said. “It can’t be in Facebook’s interest that its platform is misused in order to spread lies and hate campaigns. Criminal content should be deleted immediately once it has been reported. And it must be easier for users to report fake news.”
Germany’s Justice Ministry will draft a bill that will include a “catalog of fines” for violations, Volker Kauder, Merkel’s top lieutenant in parliament, told reporters Saturday. Thomas Oppermann, his counterpart in the Social Democratic Party, Merkel’s coalition partner, last month told Der Spiegel that the penalties could reach 500,000 euros ($532,000), and that sites like Facebook should also be required to publish corrections after removing criminal posts.
The fines “have to hurt, otherwise they won’t work,” Kauder said.
And while many would say this is yet another unprecedented attempt of the left to collude with the mainstream media in an effort to censor their political opposition, Merkel's CDU party would like for you to rest assured that their "fake news" crusade is simply intended to "protect Germany’s democratic process against manipulation."
“Social networks take too long to remove insults before they spiral out of control,” said Stephan Harbarth, a senior lawmaker of Merkel’s CDU party. “There are clear limits to freedom of speech in the real world that aren’t yet applied online and that needs to change. This is about hate posts as well as fake news.”
Harbarth said he would like to see the law enacted before this year’s national election, expected to be held in September. He insists it’s not intended to boost the CDU’s chances in the ballot, but rather to protect Germany’s democratic process against manipulation.
But, if the last year has taught us anything, it's that Putin and his army of hackers will not be stopped. If they can single-handedly topple the Clinton dynasty then Merkel doesn't stand a chance.