German chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that the outcome of next year’s Germany election campaign could be influenced by fake news sites and bots if they are not regulated.
Europe’s foremost politician became the latest to voice her concerns over the phenomenon after it played a pivotal role in the ascension of Donald Trump to the White House. In what was her first speech since announcing her plan to pursue a fourth term as chancellor, Merkel urged her peers and technology companies to combat the online outbreak.
“In order to reach people, to inspire people, we need to deal with this phenomenon and – where necessary – regulate it,” Merkel said.
Merkel has already brought in Germany’s leading political data science expert, professor Simon Hegelich of the Technical University of Munich for consultations with the government.
However, experts believe it will be tricky for Germany to introduce legislation when there is little evidence that lawmakers and technology companies fully understand the root of the issue.
Breitbert News, the website that became a key platform for the alt-right movement in the US, revealed earlier this month plans to launch in both Germany and France, which is also holding presidential elections next year.
Since Trump’s election, debate has raged over the impact fake sites and news stories could have over the spread of erroneous information and consequently shape people’s beliefs. Indeed, German officials have slammed Facebook for failing to curb hate speech on its social network over the past year, with justice minister Heiko Maas arguing last week that it should be treated as a media company so that it would be accountable for any content published on the platform.