Germany wants to criminalise fake news

Producing and distributing fake news, the new kid on the block that has taken the media space by storm, could soon be a criminal offence in Germany, as lawmakers are weighing legal options to stop it from making further damage.

German lawmaker Patrick Sensburg, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), told Deutsche Welle (DW) on Tuesday that the government needed to consider ratcheting up the statutory offences against fake news producers and take action against the people who run these websites.

Several German politicians have also called for legal measures to combat the growing phenomenon online, with Deputy Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) saying Germany must stand together against fake news and social [media] bots.

Fake news are believed to have boosted Donald Trump’s victory during the US presidential elections, with dozens of such sites publishing false and damaging information about Hilary Clinton.

Democrats were left fuming in the wake of Clinton’s defeat, with President Barack Obama saying fake news were undermining democracy.

However, back in 2012 a group of psychologists had published a study on the persistence of misinformation, warning that it could have fairly alarming implications in a democracy.

“At an individual level, misinformation about health issues – for example, unwarranted fears regarding vaccinations or unwarranted trust in alternative medicine – can do a lot of damage,” said the study’s lead author Stephan Lewandowsky, an Australian psychologist at the University of Bristol.

“At a societal level, persistent misinformation about political issues can create considerable harm. On a global scale, misinformation about climate change is currently delaying mitigative action,” he added.

(DW/Sifa News, final editing by Issa Sikiti)

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