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Russia targets Germany with false information as Europe votes

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Russia targets Germany with false information as Europe votes

With European Union elections underway, Germany is the EU country most targeted by Russian disinformation campaigns, a European Commission spokesperson told WIRED.

The warning comes days before Germany votes in EU elections on Sunday and during a campaign season marked by a series of violent attacks on German politicians.

“The majority of cases in our database are related to Germany, which means that it is the EU country most targeted by disinformation,” says Peter Stano, chief spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy at the European Commission. .

Numerous cases of Russian disinformation directed at Germany come to light disinformation database managed by the EU diplomatic service. An example refers to the month of April. case where fake news articles purportedly published by the German magazine Der Spiegel were spread on the social platform the magazine, Spiegel. .Delaware. Although the links no longer work, at least two accounts that shared the fake articles are still online. X did not respond to WIRED’s request for comment.

“What we are fighting and defending against is this foreign interference and manipulation of information coming from Russia,” Stano says of the threats facing the EU elections this weekend. These disinformation campaigns, Stano says, can be linked to Russia because they link or reference Russian state media controlled by the Kremlin.

Germany “is the largest EU member state by population and, in public perception, drives policymaking in the EU,” Stano says. Russia is trying to exacerbate divisions that already exist in Germany, he adds, such as the economic differences between east and west, as well as the economic differences between east and west, as well as the economic differences between Germany and Germany.Putinversteher,” either Putin supportersterm used to describe sectors of the German political class that express sympathy for the Russian president.

Fact-checkers working for the independent media group Correctiv have also identified videos about Tik Tok falsely claiming that Germany is preparing to enter war in Ukraine, and another video on Telegram and Facebook falsely claiming to show Protesters clashed with police in Mannheim after a police officer was stabbed and killed last week.

Tensions are already high in Germany ahead of the election. Earlier this week, a politician from the far-right AFD party was stabbed in the city of Mannheim. Last month, a candidate from Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s center-left SPD party was hospitalized after being attacked while putting up posters. A Green Party candidate was also verbally and physically attacked.

On Thursday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz pledged to counter political violence, whether it comes from the far left or the far right. “Security is the cornerstone of our freedom, our democracy and our rule of law,” he said in a speech in Berlin. Germany’s Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment on the impact disinformation was having on the election campaign.

The European Commission has a team of about 40 people who track online disinformation. They have a budget of around €20 million to track Russian activities on platforms such as TikTok, Facebook, Telegram and Instagram and communicate their findings to EU member states.

Compared to Russia, its budget is nothing, says Stano. “We assume they are spending a billion euros on disinformation,” he added, explaining that the European Commission had arrived at this estimate based on publicly available data on allocations in Russia’s state budget for state media and communication activities.

The EU has also been closely monitoring how social media companies respond to Russian attempts to manipulate discussion on their platforms. In April, the bloc’s regulators thrown out a formal investigation into Meta, Facebook’s parent company, to check whether the platform was complying with its obligations to prevent the spread of disinformation campaigns. “We suspect that Meta’s moderation is insufficient,” said the commission’s senior official, Margrethe Vestager.

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