Authorities in Germany may make it a criminal offence for websites to publish anything deemed to be ‘fake news’ – resulting in prison time for offenders.
Following widespread reports that Russian hackers influenced the outcome of the U.S. elections, German MPs have called for ‘fake news’ campaigns to be made into a crime, citing fears that Russia will affect the German elections in a similar way.
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Patrick Sensburg, a senior MP in Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, said: “Targeted disinformation to destabilize a state should be a criminal offense. We need to consider whether there should be some sort of ‘test site’ that reveals and identifies propaganda pages.”
Moreover, Stephan Mayer, a member of the CDU’s Bavarian sister party told Reuters he agrees with demand for a criminal offense for disinformation campaigns.
The politician pointed to increasing hacker attacks on parties and political organizations as well as disinformation. The perpetrators are concerned with the wrong information to achieve a certain effect and influence the election.
Furthermore, Johannes Fechner, the right-wing spokesman of the SPD parliamentary group said: “We should regulate that there are sanctions if a social network knows by a hint that fake news is spread and still leaves it.”
The call for this proposal was also backed by Sensburg’s party colleague Ansgar Heveling, the chairman of the German parliament’s influential internal affairs committee.
He said: “We last saw disinformation campaigns during the Cold War, now they have clearly been revived with new media opportunities”.