Germany election: U.S. right-wing voices meddling more than Russia
An alliance of mostly anonymous online trolls and extremist agitators are meddling in Germany’s election, but researchers say Russians aren’t to blame.
Instead, they say, right-wing groups in the United States are behind materials popping up on YouTube, messaging board sites like 4chan and reddit and texting service Gab.ai.
The evidence comes less than a week before Sunday’s vote that is likely to hand German Chancellor Angela Merkel a fourth term.
“So far we have not been able to track down any specific Russian activity,” said Simon Hegelich, a professor of political science data at the Technical University of Munich who has advised the German government about the threat of hacking and false information.
Hegelich said proving connections among sympathizers is difficult and may never be conclusive.
But an analysis of 300 million tweets over the past six months by Hegelich and researchers at the Technical University of Munich shows Germany is a hotspot for posts that use the hashtag #AltRight.
One example: Gaycken said for the past two months, new and existing Facebook users in Germany who search for political discussion groups have been automatically given recommendations that prioritize right-wing parties such as AfD, expected to enter the country’s national parliament for the first time after Sunday’s vote.
“It’s really strange because Facebook says this should be impossible because you are only supposed to get recommendations based on your own ’friends,’ ’groups’ and ’likes.’ But everyone in Germany is getting these right-wing party recommendations,” he said. “Even left-wing journalists.”
Facebook said in a statement it was aware of the issue reported in Germany and that it was related to its “Groups Discover” feature. Facebook has now temporarily turned off the category “news and politics” in the “Discover” tab while it investigates the matter.