In the 2017 U.S. election, the most widespread fake news was
clicked 8.7 million times – more than the most widespread real news.

Social bots intentionally spread rumours, propaganda comments and fake news, especially before elections. Many believe them to be danger to democracy.

Fake News

You're lying
like a rug!

More and more fake news is spreading on the Internet. This article will put an end to all the tall tales. Honestly?

  • Politicians like to argue about many things, but one thing unites them all: their com­mon fear – fear of social bots. And they're right.

    Why are social bots so dangerous? Social bots are computer programs that simulate real people and are active on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks. The insidious thing: there are millions of these bots roaming the Internet and they aren't very particular about the truth. To the contrary: they intentionally spread rumors, propaganda comments, and fake news – especially during election season. And to a degree that many people fear that their targeted opinion-making is affecting elections, putting our democracy at risk.

    Even large media companies sometimes have problems telling the increasingly sophisticated bots apart from real people. Facebook estimates around 15 million bots on its network, with a similar amount on Twitter. Many of the social bots are thought to be controlled by Russia. That's why Facebook demanded that its Russian users send selfies in December 2017, to identify themselves as humans. Facebook hopes this will enable them to identify the social bots and freeze the corresponding accounts.

    But what can we do to avoid falling for fake news, or even helping to spread half-truths and lies ourselves, essentially becoming henchmen to the criminals? How can we protect ourselves?
The big fake quiz

Fact or fake
The truth always prevails over lies. Or does it?

Question 1 of 5 Who said the sentence "Beam me up, Scotty"?
  • ANo one
  • BCaptain Kirk, but only in the movies
  • CSpock on Star Trek
  • DCaptain Kirk on Star Trek
Exactly Wrong

It seems like Captain Kirk spoke these words to Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott a thousand times. But did he? In fact, in the 79 episodes of "Star Trek" (TOS) and eight feature films, none of the actors ever said this line even once. Yet the saying is prevalent – even without a cinematic basis.

Question 2 of 5 What is the "sleeper effect"?
  • APeople remember the content of a message, but not its source
  • BPeople are more likely to remember the sources of information that they use often
  • CBefore someone intentionally publishes fake news, they read relevant sites secretly
  • DThe more it spreads, the more the fake news is thought to be "true"
Exactly Wrong

Sociologists coined the term "sleeper effect" in the 1950s, defining it as the tendency of people to remember the content of a message, but forget its source, after a certain amount of time. That means even when recipients identify fake news as such and find it implausible at first, when they remember the fake news later, they forget that they originally thought it wasn't true. Because they can no longer attribute the information to a source. By the way: the fact that recipients find fake news truer and more plausible after seeing it multiple times is also a known psychological phenomenon: it's known as the "illusory truth effect". To sum up, it all means no one is immune to fake news.

Question 3 of 5 The most widespread fake news in 2015 was...
  • AMark Zuckerberg wants to delete Trump's Facebook account.
  • BObama signed a decree banning children from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in schools.
  • CThe Pope endorses Donald Trump as president.
  • DYou can drill your own headphone jack on the new iPhone.
Exactly Wrong

BuzzFeed News calculated the 50 fake news items that were most shared, liked, and commented on social networks. Fake political news is the clear number one: 49% of user engagement was generated by fake political news; 34% by fake crime stories.

Question 4 of 5 How many children and young people say they've been victims of cyberbullying?
  • Aabout 13 percent
  • Babout 20 percent
  • Cabout 10 percent
  • Dabout 5 percent
Exactly Wrong

Thirteen percent of children and young people say they've been bullied online at least once.

Question 5 of 5 Which statement about social bots is true?
  • ASocial bots were developed with negative intentions.
  • BThe first TV debate between Trump and Clinton was decided by bots.
  • CThe clearest indications for spotting social bots are the quantity and speed of the messages they send.
  • DSocial bots were forbidden in the 2017 election.
Exactly Wrong

After the first TV debate, Twitter gave the impression that he won. #TrumpWon was the most popular hashtag. It was later determined that one third of the pro-Trump tweets (and one-fifth of the pro-Hillary tweets) came from social bots. If you look at all of Trump's activities, including likes and retweets, researchers say 80% originated from social bots. The first social bots were intended to help people find their way around social networks. Today they are increasingly being used for manipulation. It used to be easier to identify fake accounts, because they shot off messages at all times of the day and night with inhuman speed, it's now becoming more difficult. Modern social bots have a day/night rhythm and can conduct small talk. They can delay their answers, to make it seem like they're typing or thinking. There is no clear method for identifying bots. Ultimately, it's just a question of logic: how human does the conversation sound? How does the counterpart respond to logical questions?

Think before you click.
Deutsche Telekom employees at fake school

  • Deutsche Telekom sent employees to take a major fake news test. One of the goals was to identify propaganda and fake news on the Internet. On the day of the "1001 Truths" event, they learned how to spot fake news and tell it apart from actual facts in a number of workshops and discussions, as well as many other things.

    One of the day's highlights was the kitchen talk on "Social Media in Elections", with guest expert Julius van de Laar, Obama campaign manager. Van de Laar provided exciting insights behind the scenes of American election strategies, among other things demonstrating the mechanisms that Trump used to win the election – including social bots.

    In addition to the "1001 Truths" event, Deutsche Telekom has launched a number of other initiatives to ensure a safe journey to the digital world. On ("Safe Digital"), for example, Deutsche Telekom publishes an online guide focused on data protection and privacy. You can find out how to configure your computer to be secure, for instance. In addition, the Deutsche Telekom initiative TeachToday provides valuable information and teaching materials to help parents and teachers guide children and young people through the Internet safely. Many people aren't even aware of the dangers, to say nothing of ways to protect themselves reliably. A quick overview of the biggest dangers on the Internet can be found here.

    With the Internet of Things, machines and robots will increasingly become part of our social lives. That has many benefits. But to capture them, we have to be able to identify the dangers as well. That's why Deutsche Telekom has advocated improving media skills for many years. To paraphrase Kant, digitalization is not a fate, but rather a task of organization.

Project day "1001 Truths"
How can you tell fake news from real news? What did Obama's and Trump's campaigns look like behind the scenes? The "1001 Truths" project day provided answers.

Four tricks for spotting fake news

  1. 1 Check the author

    Before you share a post, take a close look at the author's profile. If they just recently appeared, that's suspicious. A low number of followers/friends can also be a telltale that it's a bot. In particular, check their previous posts, including temporal and content consistency. If a user has not been verified yet, the blue verification checkmark is missing.

  2. 2 Check the images

    The reverse image search on Google helps you spot fakes quickly. To do so, simply enter the URL of the image on Google. This lets you quickly verify whether an attack has occurred, for example, or whether a bot has simply stolen an old image from the Internet. In the latter case, the website where the picture was published previously will also appear in the search results. Street signs and license plates often provide information as well. If a celebrity has allegedly been spotted in New York, for example, but a car with a British license plate can be seen in the background or an outdoor clock shows a completely different time, the fake news is easy to spot.

  3. 3 Check the publisher information

    In addition to social media, of course, fake news is often published on independent websites as well. In this case, checking the publisher's information, which is required in Germany, is a good first step. It gives you an impression of the originator. If no publisher information is provided, then you shouldn't trust the site.

  4. 4 Check the URL

    In some cases, fake news takes the form of an entire copied website. You might think you're on Spiegel Online, for example, because the site looks exactly like Spiegel Online. But in fact, someone has simply copied the design. To spot such fakes, take a closer look at the URL. In many cases, only individual letters are different, or the domain extension.

What's your opinion? What do you think, did you ever fall for a fake news?
No, never Yes, certainly

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