Germany’s biggest news outlets have been exposed for spreading false stories about migrants crossing the border into Austria in a bid to steal asylum seekers’ jobs, a group of academics says.
“We found more and more stories that the outlets published,” Professor Peter Reuter, a German professor at the University of Tübingen and an expert on social media, told reporters on Tuesday.
“It’s not the only issue,” he added, noting that fake news stories are being published on the platforms of the German state broadcaster ARD and the broadcaster WDR.
“This means that journalists are creating fake news,” Professor Reuter added.
“There’s a very good chance that some of these stories will be used to recruit refugees.”
The media outlets said they had been contacted by authorities to investigate and were looking into how to tackle the problem.
The number of fake news articles has increased by more than a third over the past three months, said Professor Reuters group, which works with German universities to combat fake news.
But the fake stories have spread far beyond Germany.
“In Germany there are already many fake stories circulating on social networks, and many more are spreading to the United States,” he said.
The German news organisations are now working with a number of news organisations across Europe to ensure that their content is verified, said the professors.
The first article that Reuter found was posted on Aug. 19 on the German news website Der Spiegel.
“We will no longer tolerate illegal immigration,” the article read, adding that the migrants were “criminals and criminals who want to destroy our country.”
“We will not accept this,” the headline said.
Two days later, a fake article on the news website The Local was published on Aug 18, which was headlined “Germans, who are not refugees, need to flee”.
“There are a lot of young people who are living in tents in the camp and who have no prospects of finding a job,” it said.
“They want to become refugees, but they can’t because they are not welcome here.”
Another article appeared on the same site on Aug 19, entitled “German authorities must stop the asylum seekers from crossing into Austria,” which claimed that more than 200,000 asylum seekers had arrived in the country by August.
It was also signed by German interior minister Joachim Herrmann.
“There is an enormous number of people in the refugee camp in Austria,” the caption read.
“This has become a real problem.”
Reuter said that he had found more fake stories than ever before.
“I think it is clear that many of the stories are coming from foreign websites and we are working very closely with our German colleagues to find the ones that are not fake,” he told reporters.
“If we get them right, we can prevent a lot more fake news from appearing,” he continued.
“As the media starts to publish more and it becomes more obvious that it’s not true, we will have a much better chance to stop the spreading of fake stories.”‘
Unprecedented’ ‘unprecedented’: ReuterGerman media are also being investigated for publishing fake stories about the arrival of migrants in Germany.
In one instance, The Local published an article on Aug 17 that claimed the migrants had arrived by boat in the town of Münde, near the German border, which is in Austria’s southern Vistula region.
It said the migrants, most of whom were from Eritrea, were “desperate people who have nothing to live for.”
But in an interview with German news channel ARD, the editor of the local newspaper said that it was not true.
“It was not an article that was written by a journalist but by an official of the Austrian authorities,” he was quoted as saying.
“The refugees are desperate people who want nothing more than to return to their home countries and to start their lives again,” the journalist said.
“These people are not fleeing war, but to the better life.”
The German newspaper later apologised for the article and said it would remove the post.