The German government announced it will use “all possible means” to investigate the spread of fake news online following Russian hacks and a dubious Breitbart news story that falsely claimed Muslim immigrants attacked a church.
Reuters reported that German officials announced the government’s plan to investigate the “unprecedented proliferation” of fake news online amid growing concerns within German intelligence that Russia may attempt to interfere in the 2017 German parliamentary election.
The announcement came following the backlash of a fake news story published by Breitbart.com that falsely claimed a “mob” of 1,000 Muslims attacked police and attempted to set a church on fire during New Year's Eve celebrations. German police immediately quashed the false story, and German newspaper editorial boards called out Breitbart for using “exaggerations and factual errors” to create “an image of chaotic civil war-like conditions in Germany, caused by Islamist aggressors.”
In November, Breitbart announced it would open new bureaus in France and Germany to “help elect right-wing politicians” in the countries facing upcoming elections in environments where “anti-immigrant sentiment has been on the rise." Since that time, Breitbart has published a number of stories attacking Angela Merkel and German immigration policies.
German officials also expressed concerns about Russian use of fake news in the country. The New York Times reported that Russia was behind the hacking into the German Parliament’s computer network in 2015 that left nearly 1 million Germans without internet access and increased fears that Russia will use fake news to “corrupt public debate and democratic processes.”