As we have noted on our Twitter account, the German authorities have recently warned of the risks of the disinformation campaign targeting Germany. Disinformation we have collated since our last review would appear to corroborate this concern.
Late last year, Russian state-media RIA Novosti ran with a story that 700,000 Germans had had to flee Germany because of Chancellor Merkel’s policies (http://bit.ly/2iH7siG) – despite no credible source confirming such information. In fact, according to the German statistical office, around 140-150,000 Germans leave the country every year (http://bit.ly/1xB61Fl).
Given last year’s events, it comes as no surprise that disinformation oriented outlets picked New Year’s Eve in German cities as a subject of their reporting. The English speaking outlet Breitbart, which focused on pro-Kremlin messaging during the recent US elections, published a story about 1,000 Muslims in Dortmund setting on fire the oldest church in Germany: http://bit.ly/2i6DaVf. To justfiy its claims, the American outlet referenced reporting by local Dortmund news site Ruhr Nachrichten – which however quickly debunked and condemned the story for using “our online reports for fake news, hate and propaganda.” (http://bit.ly/2ibTumJ). As Ruhr Nachrichten documented, the disinformation was further used by other media and by social media users, many of them using neo-Nazi vocabulary. All this despite the fact that German police in fact reported that given the date, it was actually a quiet night (http://bit.ly/2igqfjC).
In a similar vein, a Czech pro-Kremlin outlet invented a story about repeat sexual harassment during New Year’s Eve in Cologne (http://bit.ly/2hXjCqv) – again, despite the fact that, in truth, no such incidents were reported: http://bit.ly/2ilJD1t.
All this comes less than a year after the now infamous “test-case” of how a disinformation campaign would work in Germany: the Lisa case, in which pro-Kremlin media falsely reported that a thirteen-year-old girl had been raped by migrants. In all cases, the disinformation tries to fuel the most negative emotions of the general public towards refugees, something which has proved to be a favourite strategy of pro-Kremlin media across Europe over the past year.
Talking about facts is an attack on our freedom!
The pro-Kremlin campaign against institutions fighting disinformation that we reported about already last year continued in the beginning of 2017.
Most originated in Czech disinformation-oriented outlets, and were clearly reacting to the establishment of the new government unit for countering terrorism and hybrid threats (including disinformation). In the table you will find multiple claims such as that the new centre will prosecute people who do not have the “right” opinion, that it will “create truth”, and that it is an attack on freedom of speech.
So just to make it clear again: the new Czech centre will only highlight and warn against dangerous disinformation. Setting the record straight is not a violation of the freedom of speech. And intentionally misleading and lying is not an “opinion”. It is simply misleading and lying.
Disinformation cases reported in the previous week