Disinformation: How are we protecting ourselves and our partners against foreign manipulation of information?

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05.06.2024 - Article

Disinformation is divisive, has the potential to exacerbate crises and is damaging public discourse around the world. How do we respond when foreign actors manipulate information with bots, fake websites and deception? What is the Federal Foreign Office doing to address this situation?

Fake websites that look like trustworthy news sites. Bots that spread news in social media by the second, whipping up emotions. Deepfake videos created using artificial intelligence that purportedly show press statements made by politicians. Foreign actors are seeking to manipulate the public debate in Germany, Europe and around the world in a variety of different ways. Social media and the development of artificial intelligence are making it easy to disseminate disinformation within the shortest possible space of time. The aim is to deceive and divide society and to undermine trust in democracy and institutions in order to promote political interests.

What is the Federal Foreign Office doing?

Disinformation can destabilise countries. It can lead to unrest and, in concrete terms, put the security of Germany’s missions abroad at risk. Disinformation can also undermine the credibility of Germany’s foreign policy. The Federal Foreign Office is working together with Germany’s missions abroad to tackle disinformation. We are liaising closely within the German Government to this end.

Analysing disinformation

A clear understanding of the situation is a prerequisite going forward. The Federal Foreign Office has a team of analysts who analyse social media debates and potential disinformation campaigns pertaining to foreign affairs. Debates abroad and foreign actors are analysed and only public sources (also known as open source intelligence) are examined. The aim is to understand how debates develop and whether they are manipulated by foreign actors, e.g. with the use of bots or deepfakes.

Strengthening resilience in society

Disinformation seeks to destroy trust. This affects the entire society of any given country. We are therefore lending our support to projects spearheaded by civil society stakeholders in partner countries who are working to improve media literacy and to train journalists. Our objective is to strengthen democratic structures and to protect the freedom of debate. Moreover, we are supporting research projects and think tanks that analyse disinformation and shed light on its impact.

Cooperation with international partners

Disinformation is a global phenomenon, which is why cooperating with international partners is vital. We are liaising with partner countries about strategies for dealing with disinformation. In international forums such as the EU and the Weimar Triangle, we are holding discussions with our partners about the impacts of and ways to combat disinformation. We are bringing this expertise to bear also with respect to the cooperation within the German Government.

Active communication

Those who are informed will be less likely to fall for disinformation. Disinformation spreads particularly quickly especially in times of crisis. In this environment, it is more important than ever for Germany to explain its objectives and actions in the foreign policy domain. This is why we are working to enhance the strategic communication of German diplomacy abroad.


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