German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the prime target of fake news campaigns originating from Russia, said a source close to the matter citing information from the E.U.’s East StratCom Task Force.
According to this information, Ms. Merkel has been the main target of pro-Kremlin outlets in recent months with articles going as far as to say that she was in touch with some of the attackers behind the Paris and Brussels attacks. But the majority is directed at her open-door policy toward refugees.
The source claims propaganda to be "part of the state policy" for Russia and a "military tool" and also claims that this has been confirmed by Russian military sources. The Kremlin directly controls media and "tells them what they can and cannot write on a daily basis."
The E.U.'s task force was set up in 2015 in response to a request from all 28 E.U. heads of state to "address Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaigns." So far, its team of 11 is said to have disproved a total of 2,500 stories. However, this represents only a fraction of the circulating disinformation.
The task force does not have its own budget. Seven team members are paid by E.U. countries, the rest are E.U. employees. More than 400 volunteers in 30 countries are doing some groundwork for the experts, for example by flagging questionable news reports.
With German federal elections less than a year away, all major political parties are calling for tougher legal measures against fake news and online defamation. Facebook’s announcement that it was tackling fake news in Germany through fact-checking has been welcomed by some, but critics say it doesn't go far enough.