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German prosecutors consider legal action against the spread of misinformation on Twitter

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By Rebecca Stewart | Trends Editor

July 25, 2016 | 2 min read

Following a mass shooting in Munich on Friday (22 July) German prosecutors say they are considering taking legal action against people who set out to spread false information on social media in times of crisis.

Twitter Germany Legal Action News

German prosecutors are considering legal action against the spread of misinformation on social media / Twitter

During the attack by 16-year-old David Ali Sonboly, wildly conflicting reports about the number of gunmen involved provoked further chaos in the city. Comments online led to Munich’s police department sending out a public message urging citizens to “restrain on any speculations,” to help the police in their operation.

According to The Times, prosecutors in the country are debating whether to take those who purposefully distributed false information online to court.

Less than an hour into the tragedy, some Twitter users were wrongly identifying the then unknown perpetrator via an image of a man dressed in neo-Nazi gear holding a gun, while others were posting images from different attacks from across the world claiming to be on the scene.

Both Facebook and Twitter have come under scrutiny for their rolling news coverage during attack and other similar incidents, with some saying the autoplay function on the social networks' video players can turn users into unwitting witnesses. However, both platforms have been praised for their ability to connect people during crises, thanks to features like Safety Check and hashtags designed to help bring people to safety.

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