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A man's silhouette is covered by code: fake news in circulation

Photo: Kacper Pempel / REUTERS

The majority of Germans are alarmed by disinformation campaigns and the spread of fake news.

This is the result of a representative survey commissioned by the Bertelsmann Foundation in which around 5,000 people in Germany were interviewed in October.

84 percent of those surveyed describe intentionally spreading false information on the Internet as a major or even very major problem for society.

81 percent are of the opinion that these represent a risk to democracy and cohesion.

More than one in two people say they have encountered false information on social media, such as Facebook or X, formerly Twitter.

37 percent claim to have discovered fake news in the comment columns of blogs or news sites.

And one in three believe they have found false information on blogs or news sites.

According to those surveyed, protest and activist groups, as well as social media influencers and bloggers, are primarily responsible for the spread of disinformation.

53 percent of those surveyed named foreign governments and 50 percent politicians from Germany as an important source of fake news.

34 percent are of the opinion that the federal government is responsible for false information.

Fake news from all political camps

Around half of those surveyed, around 55 percent, are of the opinion that disinformation is spread equally by representatives of the right and the left of the political spectrum.

25 percent blame activists from the right-wing camp primarily, while ten percent blame representatives from the left-wing camp.

Russia in particular repeatedly tries to destabilize Western democracies through cyber propaganda and the spread of fake news.

The debate is also being further fueled by the use of artificial intelligence.

Mandatory fact checks

»We need better guidelines.

Social networks should be obliged to include fact checks and trust ratings,” demands study co-author Cathleen Berger.

It must be made easier for users to check information and report it if necessary.

An additional 2,000 people in the USA were surveyed for the study.

The result: Uncertainty about the truth of digital content and the perception of disinformation are even more pronounced there than in Germany.

But respondents in the US are also more reflective, the study says: While 39 percent of US subjects say they are worried about falling for false information themselves, only 16 percent of German respondents see such a risk for themselves.