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Fake News: How much does disinformation really affect us?


The debate about fake news on the net is partly hysterical, says journalism professor Martin Emmer in a digital podcast. Nevertheless, it could split the society.

Martin Emmer is a professor of journalism and communication sciences at the Free University of Berlin. © Michael Pfister for ZEIT ONLINE

Even before the presidential elections in 2020 in the US, Facebook is again in the spotlight: Political advertising on the social network may also contain false information. Facebook does not want to prohibit or correct advertising: it is not the duty of the service to intervene in the speeches of politicians, according to a blog post. An attitude that brought the network a lot of criticism. Because at least since the American election campaign in 2016, fake news is suspected of influencing citizens, opinions and political discourse.

But is that so? How do we influence false information? And where does one draw the line between a fake news and an exaggerated message, which still contains a true core? What role do messengers like WhatsApp or Signal play in disseminating disinformation? How can we escape users of the fake news trap? Can you ask everyone to constantly check facts?

Martin Emmer is a professor of journalism and communication sciences at the Free University of Berlin and founding director of the Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society, which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Research. His research includes hate in the internet and propaganda in social media. People read something and then just believed it - that's the classic idea of ​​media impact, says Emmer in the ZEIT-ONLINE digital podcast. Is that going to happen? , The public debate is very hysterical in this regard. In fact, we often reject messages that do not match our opinion.

Nevertheless, fake news could have an effect: they could confirm our opinion, Emmer says. And the debate about fake news in his opinion, the social division can drive forward. The fact that US President Donald Trump overrules all critics with the allegation of fake news is a strategy to immunize their own followers, the scientist said. They would no longer have to deal with content criticism of Trump - they could simply discredit them as fake news.

Precisely because "fake news" is such a battle concept today, Martin Emmer prefers to speak of disinformation. In the digital podcast, he explains why false information in messengers such as WhatsApp or Signal is a problem, why platforms are not the problem, but still should not be left to them - and why he would not always advise a fact check.

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Source: zeit

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