Measures are being unrolled across the continent to safeguard against fake news interfering with campaigning with a series of major European elections in the calendar for 2017.
However the phenomenon, which is thought by some to have led to U.S. President Donald Trump’s electoral success, is already past its peak, according to one analyst who spoke to the media about the issue.
Fake news is “probably not going to (influence this year’s elections) very much”, said Jeremy Shapiro, research director at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
Crucial to their success is the opacity concerning the sources of fake news stories, according to Shapiro. “Deeply strengthened by things going on in the U.S.” was the ability for the successful separation of fact and fiction in upcoming European elections, he argued.
“In part because the Russians have so discredited themselves”, doubts over the potential future impact of fake news believed to be pushing a pro-Kremlin agenda was cast by Shapiro.
“It’s harder to do the second time,” he said, “We hit peak fake news about a month ago. There will never be that level of assumed impact again.”
The vulnerability to fake news of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s impending election campaign in particular have given rise to a series of stories swirl around it and Shapiro’s viewpoint comes amidst such an environment.
Merkel was found to be increasingly falling in the firing line of fake news stories by the European Union’s East StratCom Task Force – a body dedicated to debunking so-called “disinformation” coming from Russia’s direction. This finding was reported this week.
It found “more than 2,500 examples in 18 languages of stories contradicting publicly available facts” in a report that it published last Thursday after 15 months of daily data collection.
Pro-Kremlin fake news was described as “a non-military measure for achieving political goals” in the report.
Ahead of the country’s elections in September of this year, Facebook will extend its fact checking facility to users in Germany, the largest social media platform made the announcement earlier in January.
The tool allows users to report stories as fake news and had already been rolled out in the U.S. in December following concern about U.S. President Donald Trump’s election win. An organization of third party fact checkers is supplied with the articles in question in this arrangement. A story will be flagged publicly and appear lower down on the news feed if its contents are found to be disputed.
Politicians were considering new laws that could make social networks – like Facebook – propagating fake news susceptible to hefty fines, in a governmental attempt to protect Germany’s upcoming election from fake news, media reported in December. It had noted an increase in Russian propaganda and cyber attacks against political parties, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency announced in early December.
“We see aggressive and increased cyber spying and cyber operations that could potentially endanger German government officials, members of parliament and employees of democratic parties,” said Hans-Georg Maassen, heard of Germany’s BfV spy agency in December in a statement reported by Reuters.
(Adapted from CNBC)