On April 26, the German government approved a plan to crack down on hate speech and fake news.
The law would require social media companies to take down hate speech or fake news within 24 hours, or pay a large fine of over 50 million Euros.
The law quickly created controversy as some people see this as an attack on freedom of speech, and others see the law as necessary to a just society.
So why is fake news a problem? It can deliberately mislead people into believing in things that are false or not completely accurate. Sometimes news may be called "fake news" by people who don't want to accept the truth, or who have a different opinion and try to force that on others by confusing them.
The German Situation
Some Germans believe the new law is an attack on the freedom of speech. Having companies censor and even delete social media posts places far too much power in the hands of companies. It also makes companies the judges of what constitutes “right” or “wrong” posts and opinions. Many also believe the high fines inflicted on companies for not removing hate speech or fake news will mean companies will be overzealous in removing this content, possibly deleting actual news and further restricting free speech.
Other Germans, including high ranking politicians and government officials, believe the law is necessary to keep democracy safe. Fake news deeply affected the recent US election season. The German government does not want fake news to affect their upcoming elections in September.
How To Spot Fake News
Fake news has been around since the beginning of publication and has always posed a problem.
Spotting fake news isn’t hard, but many people don’t take the time to be sure what they read or watch is legitimate. Below are several tips on how you can be sure to avoid fake news.
1. Check the source! Blogsites, Youtube, and clickbait sites are not often legitimate sources of information. New York Times, CNN, and BBC are well known publications whose reputation rests on publishing legitimate news.
2. Beware of satire! Satire is the use of humor or ridicule to make a point. Some articles may appear to be filled with shocking new information, but be sure it’s not satire. Many sites will say whether or not they are satire in the “about” section.
3. Check your biases! Arguably the hardest, but most important aspect. Many fake news sites create stories which readers will instantly believe because of their own bias.
4. Cross-check! Most importantly, cross check your sources or stories. If several sites are covering the same topic and seem to be in agreement, the story is probably legitimate. If the story can only be found on one sketchy site, it’s probably fake news.