In this article we compare between the phenomenon of fake news that politicians spread around elections in Israel and in Germany. After joint research and communication with our counterparts in Mainz University, we discuss our findings.
First, in Israel we see that politicians spread fake news mainly through personal attacks on rivals. However, in Germany the attacks are on the ideology of the rival's party. For example, in the last elections in Israel in 2021 hundreds of fake profiles and bots on Facebook and Twitter spread fake news against Gideon Saar claiming that he was an operative of the New Israel Fund, an organization identified with leftist goals, that do not comply with Saar's ideology or politics.
During the last elections in Germany, that occurred around the same time, there were 3 main contending parties: the social democrats, the conservatives and the green party. 25% of the fake news that were spread during that time, were against the green party (SWR). Fake news that were spread mostly on Twitter claimed that the green party want to pass legislation to allow blocking any legislation that does not conform with their ideals of saving the earth.
Another instance of fake news was that the green party plans to form a committee to increase immigration into Germany. It is important to note that the issue of immigration in Europe in general, and in Germany in particular, is a very divisive issue that many people vote on. Therefore, spreading fake news about the party and their political intentions severely weakened them in the public's opinion and in the polls.
In Israel, we can see that the focus of fake news is towards minority, for instance when Netanyahu falsely said "The Arabs are rushing to vote". However, in Germany there is more of a gender context. For example, when a female politician was shown in naked pictures that turned out to be complete fakes.
We can see a similarity between both countries that the majority of fake news is spread through social media, using videos, pictures and tweets, as expected in the digital age. In the past few years of technological advancements, politicians and campaigners are no longer dependent on traditional media platforms where there are checks and balances on the information. The ability to spread fake news is much easier and accessible. Therefore, we see that in both countries the spread of disinformation against political rivals is done primarily on social media.
even though there are differences in the content of the fake news between Israel and Germany there are also points of similarity. In both countries we can see that the phenomena are primarily on social media, it increases around elections, and at the end of the day it has the same purpose in both countries which is to weaken the rival's political stance, to gain more power and to sway public opinion in your favor.