Questionable election fraud allegations in Germany spread online ahead of the election
German voters will go to the polls on Sunday for the general elections which will determine Chancellor Angela Merkel’s successor.
Much of the German electoral system differs from that of the United States, but something familiar emerged during the German campaign: false allegations of voter fraud and conspiracy theories about the security of mail-in voting. Experts say those making the allegations have been swayed by the narrative of the United States’ “stolen elections” from 2020.
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“I think it’s important to focus on the globality of these digital communities,” Miro Dittrich, researcher at the German Center for Surveillance, Analysis and Strategy (CEMAS), which focuses on the far right on the internet .
Dittrich noted that allegations of “rigged Dominion voting machines” in Germany spread across right-wing social media during a state-level election in Saxony-Anhalt in June, even though Germany did not do not use voting machines.
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“These alternate realities created in the United States and very popular there have a huge impact on the countries with which the United States is allied. And [the US] not dealing with these issues in the right way has huge consequences for us. “
“These alternate realities created in the United States and very popular there have a huge impact on the countries with which the United States is allied. And [the US] not dealing with these issues in the right way has huge consequences for us, ”said Dittrich.
Researchers from ISD Global, a think tank that disinformation studied in the June elections in Saxony-Anhalt, documented a Publish shared by André Poggenburg, a right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party politician, alleging electoral fraud in Germany which featured an image of a US polling station. They also found that within 24 hours of Poggenburg’s post, around 2.6 million Twitter users engaged with similar posts, including the hashtags “#Wahlfrug” or “#Electionfraud,” despite no reports. legitimate electoral fraud.
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“I think it shows the potential for using this narrative in a larger general election,” Dittrich said of the surge in election disinformation in Saxony-Anhalt.
Oliver Janich, a right-wing broadcaster, published a video entitled “Massive electoral fraud in Saxony-Anhalt: the United States as a model”.
While Germany has seen some allegations of electoral fraud in past elections, as in the United States, postal voting has become a new focus.
Germany is waiting a record increase – a possible doubling – in the total number of postal votes amid the pandemic.
And despite the fact that postal voting has operated in Germany since 1957 without incident, in January an AfD deputy was talking from the bedroom floor about his doubts about the safety of the system. Others of his party have propagated similar demands, urging their supporters to vote in person.
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The extent of disinformation in Germany is very different from that in the United States – where 44% of Americans were not fully confident about the election results – a November 2020 survey find.
However, the only political party in Germany that has driven election disinformation is the AfD – with just 12% of the seats in the Bundestag.
“You really can’t compare it. … Compared to the German population, it is certainly still a marginal movement which obtains this artificial amplification of certain pockets of the German spectrum. “
“You really can’t compare it,” said Helena Schwertheim, senior director of digital policy research at ISD Global.
“Compared to the German population, it is certainly still a marginal movement that obtains this artificial amplification of certain pockets of the German spectrum,” she said.
Germany’s top election official, Bundeswahlleiter Georg Thiel, told a press conference earlier this month that he viewed the US and German systems as “essentially not comparable” and therefore did not care. of a similar magnitude of electoral fraud claims.
Germany, he said, has a “very stable” and “completely transparent in all areas” process.
In particular, Germany does not use voting machines, only counts ballots cast before 6 p.m. without exception, and has a much more centralized process for communicating the results.
Despite this, his office maintained a “fake news” correction page, to counter election-related disinformation disseminated on the Internet.
Looking ahead to Sunday, Michael Georg Link, Member of Parliament from the Free Democratic Party, is also convinced that the German system will not fall victim to the same extent of disinformation as the United States.
Link led a team to observe the 2020 US elections of the OSCE, a global security-focused intergovernmental organization.
“Confidence in the electoral process, including postal voting, is high. “
“Confidence in the electoral process, including postal voting, is high,” he said. “This is not only due to the long tradition of postal voting in our country. Election offices and postal services were given sufficient time to prepare for the likely high number of postal votes. “
Still, the rise of fake news and conspiracy theorists targeting trust in the system presents a “real danger,” he said.
Before and after the election, Schwertheim said, she and her team will remain “vigilant”.
“We are going to see an increase in this narrative to sow more distress in the system, so that it can be implemented after the election,” she said.