Take it with a grain of salt: Fake News

Not everything that is in the newspaper is correct – but not every false report is “fake news”. Fake news, in English “fake news”, has one goal. They are supposed to set the mood and manipulate feelings under the guise of supposedly serious news. This is why fake news is so dangerous: Although the facts are not correct, they are spread more and more via social networks and are ultimately accepted as true.


For the German media researcher Alexander Sängerlaub, the intent behind the message is crucial. Fake news is deliberately disseminated false or misleading information intended to cause harm to someone – i.e. a person, group or organization.

The aim of fake news distributors is either politically motivated by influencing public opinion, or of an economic nature when it comes to luring people to websites whose click figures can be used to make money .

There have always been simple false reports in the media. On April 13, 1964, news was spread that Soviet Prime Minister Khrushchev had died four days before his 70th birthday as a result of “acute hephocapalytirosises”.

How is fake news created?

Fake news often starts with actual news that is either ambiguous or imprecise. Unprofessional press releases or journalistic careless mistakes are to blame.

Even video clips are no longer safe

With special computer programs, moving images can now be manipulated in a deceptively real way. Both politicians and private individuals can use it to put quotes in their mouths that they have never actually said. The changes in lip movements are no longer visible to the naked eye.

Fake news is successful

Precisely because they appeal to lower instincts and deal with emotional issues that anyone can get upset about immediately, they spread rapidly: up to six times faster than true news, as the US University MIT found in a study. Popular topics are, for example, acts of violence, abuse, vaccination and the refugee crisis.

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Particularly explosive

The authors of such deliberately false messages are often not people at all, but computer programs called “social bots” . They are now so technically sophisticated that they can predict exactly what a fake message must be like in order to reach as many people as possible.

Why fake news is dangerous

In this way, the social bots can create a mood for or against political views and specifically influence public opinion. Because the more emotionally charged topics appear in the media, the more users feel the threat. Targeted disseminated disinformation can control the formation of political opinion and even destroy the people’s trust in certain institutions or democracy itself.

So it’s no wonder that many experts are convinced

The business with social bots and fake news is now gigantic. They suspect that Chinese, Russian and English-speaking providers for money influence many public discussions in the western world and in social networks.