How can we protect fake news


From 23 to 26 May 2019, citizens in all 28 member states of the EU are called upon to elect their representatives for the European Parliament. The closer to the polls, the greater the number of false information circulating in social networks. The primary aim of deliberately disseminating false reports is to manipulate voters. In order to expose targeted disinformation and to stop attempts at fraud, it is advisable to view political contributions particularly critically at the moment.

In order to protect yourself against manipulation attempts through targeted misinformation and against online threats in the context of the European elections, there are some basic rules of behavior to be observed. In addition, users can also make use of special functions of social networks in order to reduce the likelihood of coming into contact with fake news or even to help them achieve greater reach.

Identify "fake news" by verifying sources

Cyber ​​criminals have been trying to polarize people with provocative posts in social networks, and not just since the start of the European elections. However, only a high number of interactions leads to "fake news" developing a wide range and in this way supporting the intentions of its authors. That's why it's important to fact-check content before interacting with the post.

For example, if an article ascribes a quote to a politician, but not one Reference to the primary source should be viewed with suspicion. All warning lights should also come on when the contents obviously aims to produce positive or negative emotions to trigger at the recipient. In this case, too, the truthfulness should be scrupulously questioned before clicking, commenting or spreading the word.

The surest way to be objective about the programs of the parties and candidates is this official website of the Federal Returning Officer:

Detection and blocking of so-called "bots"

Caution is also advised with Twitter or Facebook accounts, which use a large number of posts or comments to create a mood. Indicators of a "bot" include one low number of followers, a first recently created account, lack of interactions with other users and a missing profile picture. On Twitter also suggests unusual disproportion between the number of own followers and the number of accounts subscribed to a bot.

Anyone who thinks they have found a "bot" on Twitter can report or block it with just a few clicks on the respective profile. Browser add-ons such as can also automatically identify "bots".

A profile can also be reported or blocked on Facebook quickly and easily. Both options can be found in the drop-down menu, which is hidden behind the three dots directly under the title picture, to the right of the "Share" button.

Facebook's "Page Transparency" option helps identify suspicious patterns

If a (sponsored) political contribution appears in the private Facebook timeline, the user can quickly get an overview of the entire advertising activities of the account. All public profiles and thus also those of parties and politicians contain the menu item "Page transparency".

A user then only has to click on "Show more" and there again on "View political advertisements" on the lower right edge (see graphic). This opens the so-called "Ad Library". This offers a detailed insight into the advertising activities of the profile. This includes both the currently active advertisements as well as those placed in the past. A filter can also be used to search for advertisements in individual countries.

Do not open suspicious links in Direct Messages (DMs)

For the individual user, however, social media also harbor dangers apart from political mood-making, which threaten in particular with direct interaction with other accounts. Especially Direct messagesPrivate messages between two or more users on Twitter or Facebook can become a risk.

Basically, it should be noted: Links from unknown persons or organizations should never be clicked without hesitation. This could be malware or a phishing site that tries to steal passwords or other sensitive data. Messages with infected links in the form of auto-replies often appear after following certain accounts on Twitter. But they can also come from contacts or followers who have malicious intent or whose accounts have been hacked.

In order to significantly reduce the number of corresponding DMs on Twitter, the options "Tweet with location" and "Receive direct messages from anyone"in the menu item" Settings and data protection " deactivated become.

Use the "quality filter" on Twitter

Furthermore, special settings can also reduce the risk of being exposed to false reports or direct attacks. With the help of the so-called Quality filter For example, the quality of the content displayed on Twitter can be increased.

The corresponding subpage, on which these settings can be defined, is called up via the following path: Click on the menu item "Settings and data protection" and then on "Notifications". Several modifications can be made here. On the one hand, the "quality filter" is activated by ticking the box. According to Twitter, this filters low-quality content, such as duplicate and apparently automatically generated content, from the messages displayed. On the other hand, additional filters can also be added. Each user is free to choose. However, the filters marked below are recommended:

Donor in sight

Even if all tips are followed, the chances are high that a user of social media platforms will be confronted with fake news campaigns or attacks by cyber criminals. Particularly in the context of the upcoming European elections, caution should therefore be exercised with political messages and especially with any form of attempted contact through unknown accounts.

In addition, the dangers for individuals of suffering financial damage or becoming a victim of identity theft as a result of targeted cyberattacks are much higher in this phase of the election campaign. This is especially true for citizens who want to participate financially in political events through donations.

Anyone who wants to donate money to a party or a politician should do so directly through their websites. This ensures that the money actually arrives at the right recipient.

The ubiquity of social media makes it a powerful tool in modern society during election campaign times. It is therefore all the more important to take measures in private to make it more difficult to consciously influence people based on incorrect information and special fraudulent schemes. (sb)