Fake news: the scourge of our time

Whether the topic is coronavirus, terror or immigration policy: fake news, filter bubbles and targeted disinformation have become a fixture in the media - disseminated via video channels, social media and sometimes even reputable publications.

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Blick (CH) /

Nutcases can pose a threat, too

The tabloid Blick warns against violent "coronavirus deniers" in Germany, Switzerland and other places:

“One day the Robert Koch Institute will get what is coming to it, wrote a user on the messenger service Telegram. ... All bark but no bite? Well: last weekend, unknown persons hurled explosives at the Robert Koch Institute. We should take the militant rhetoric of the deniers and conspirators seriously. ... When people use Telegram to call for Health Minister Alain Berset's murder, when radicals proclaim online that Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga belongs in the gas chamber, then the authorities must pay attention. But so must we, the citizens of this country. It may be a small, noisy minority, just a few nutcases perhaps. But even nutcases can pose a threat to internal security.”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

The manipulation is getting more and more sophisticated

Targeted disinformation is increasingly hitting its mark, the Wiener Zeitung worries:

“According to a recent survey of 500 social media users from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, 60 percent indicated that they had been duped by a bogus story in the past. ... The survey also showed, however, that if fake news is not recognised as such by more than half the readers, then it is no longer just a niche problem. Since we would rather not assume that humanity is getting less and less intelligent, that must mean that the producers of fake news are getting better and better, also at veiling their lack of credibility. The election in the US should soon show which impact that can have on society and on key democratic events and developments.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Perception and facts are drifting apart

The greatest danger posed by conspiracy theories like QAnon lies in the fact that people are persuaded not to trust anyone anymore, warns The Guardian:

“Now we inhabit a world in which anyone - even a president - might ask us to believe events are happening that we can't see, purely on the basis that the media is hiding it from us. ... The threat from QAnon is that it further erodes the link between what we can see to be true and what we will believe to be true. The problem is not that if someone believes QAnon's crazy things, they'll believe anything, but that QAnon gives them permission to choose not to believe anyone. Truth is what their gut tells them, and reality is a choice.”

Azonnali (HU) /

Free speech also applies to nonsense

The fact that social media label posts and delete accounts in their attempts to limit conspiracy theories and hate speech is not unproblematic in the eyes of Azonnali:

“If I demand the right to express my thoughts freely, then I must grant it to others as well, even if I think that what they are saying is crazy nonsense. ... The position that a private company has the right to decide which statements can be made on its platform lags reality by about ten years. Today, Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter are themselves the public sphere. ... If someone is removed from these platforms, they are deleted from the public sphere. While dictatorships and illiberal regimes openly besiege the fortress of free speech, the large multinational tech companies have long been undermining it slowly and quietly.”