With eight months until Germans go to the polls, it seems not only politicians will be vying for voters’ attention. The country’s intelligence agencies believe foreign actors – namely Russia – may use similar tactics to those allegedly deployed during the US presidential election to divide public opinion and boost the fortunes of non-mainstream parties. In a report late last year, the Atlantic Council think-tank warned that Moscow viewed what it said were “the West’s best virtues – pluralism and openness – as vulnerabilities to be exploited.” It detailed a Kremlin “toolkit of influence,” which sought to undermine healthy democracies in Europe and elsewhere, by using information warfare to undermine the public’s trust in the political system. DW spoke to Dr. Stefan Meister, a Russian foreign policy analyst at the German Council on Foreign Relations, and learned of six main tactics that the Kremlin appears to have already put in place.
1. Throw your weight behind populist parties Unlike France’s far-right National Front, there’s no evidence that Russia is financially supporting the German anti-immigration party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has grown in popularity due to the migrant crisis. But the AfD and other populist groups have forged closer ties with Moscow in recent months and their politicians are often cited by the likes of Russia Today (RT), the Kremlin-backed TV channel which has operated a German website for the past two years.
2. Revelations about German leaders During the US election campaign, Russia is alleged to have hacked Hillary Clinton’s Democratic Party, which revealed an attempt to smear Clinton’s main rival Bernie Sanders. Other hacking revelations ensured another scandal – over the vulnerability of Clinton’s email server – dominated the election season. Similarly, German intelligence agencies have blamed Russia for cyber attacks on the Bundestag and the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party offices over the past two years.
3. Spread fake news through social media Germany has already witnessed how fake news stories can spread through social media before officials get the opportunity to uncover that they are false. Last year, a 13-year-old German Russian-German girl admitted making up a story about being kidnapped and raped by migrants in Berlin. Her accusations were boosted by a furor in the Russian media, which accused Germany of covering up the case. Dr Meister told DW that the rape allegations were “for a short moment a very successful fake story,” before German authorities were able to refute the claims.
Full Article: How to influence voters and tamper with the German election | Germany | DW.COM | 19.01.2017.