Picking up the torch on the most hotly debated topic by the humiliated US mainstream media, namely the spread of so-called “fake news” (not to be confused with Brian Williams lying for years on prime time TV, and which until recently was branded far simply as “conspiracy theory”), German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned on Wednesday against the power of fake news on social media to roil the establishment and to spur the rise of populists, after launching her campaign for a fourth term.
Speaking in parliament for the first time since her announcement Sunday that she would seek re-election next year, Merkel cautioned that public opinion was being “manipulated” on the internet.
“Something has changed — as globalisation has marched on, (political) debate is taking place in a completely new media environment. Opinions aren’t formed the way they were 25 years ago,” she said.
Quoted by France 24, she said that “Today we have fake sites, bots, trolls — things that regenerate themselves, reinforcing opinions with certain algorithms and we have to learn to deal with them.” The chancellor said the challenge for democrats was to “reach and inspire people. However, should that fail, Merkel essentially suggested the time for censorship has come: “we must confront this phenomenon and if necessary, regulate it.”
Meanwhile, just as Merkel was launching Europe’s war on “fake news”, Europe’s bureaucrats were one step ahead, and in a shocking move, on Wednesday the EU Parliament voted on a non-legislative resolution which calls for the EU to “respond to information warfare by Russia.” Russian news websites RT and Sputnik news agency were alleged to be among the most dangerous “tools of Russian propaganda.”
A total of 691 lawmakers participated in the vote: 304 voted in favor of the resolution dubbed ‘EU strategic communication to counteract propaganda against it by third parties’, 179 voted against and 208 abstained from voting. Authors of the document equate counteracting Russia with the resistance to Daesh terrorist group and call on EU member states to boost financing counter-propaganda projects.