The head of the German Permanent Conference of Social-Legal Mass Media, Maren Müller, revealed in an interview with Sputnik Germany how her organization struggles with biased coverage of events in the media and shared her attitude toward the recent “fake news” initiatives.
According to Mueller, criticism of the media is an important thing, but it shouldn’t turn into censorship. She noted that the fact-checking Correctiv team that has been tasked by German Facebook with filtering out “untrue stories” receives generous support from the state, influential corporations and foundations, as well as major media outlets.
“It’s obvious what’s happening there: it’s supposed to be a practice of filtering out uncomfortable opinions. It’s not about mistakes or fake news. Fake news always existed and used to be called a “hoax”. There have always been false reports, incorrect translations, false quotes, which have been put into the mouths of politicians who have never said that,” Mueller said.
“However, in this case the fact that they are only looking at alternative media and act according to the motto “we determine what journalism is,” can’t be accepted. This is censorship, nothing else,” she added.
The fake news debate has recently resulted in a number of initiatives to fight against the so-called misleading information and false statements. The campaign has been launched by such Internet giants, as Facebook and Google.
In particular, German Facebook, according to reports, will launch a trial run of a fake news filtering system for German users of the site, allowing individuals to fact-check and report stories they suspect to be untrue.
Suspicious stories will be dispatched to Correctiv and if the team determines the story to be fake, it will be marked as false and users seeing it in their feeds will be warned about its doubted authenticity. It will also be blocked from being promoted in users’ feeds.
Mueller believes that in this way authorities try to influence the media landscape with the help of Correctiv team. But the main problem lies in the fact that not only content, but also certain opinions may become subject to censorship, which is a clear violation of the freedom of speech, she argued.
“You can check the content side, and if it is not true, then fix it somehow. But it’s impossible to correct opinions, because opinions are free, because thoughts are free. And as long as a person does not violate the law by having an opinion, which is punishable by law, it [the adjustment of such opinions] is censorship,” Mueller concluded.
3 February 2017