Threat and danger to democracy and society

Kampf gegen Desinformation KAS
Kampf gegen Desinformation

Disinformation and its dissemination have reached new dimensions in the digital age and can not only cause social divisions but also endanger our democracy.


What is disinformation?

We speak of disinformation when facts are deliberately freely invented, manipulated, misinterpreted and deliberately circulated by various methods. In everyday life, we like to use the term "fake news" for everything that somehow seems wrong or dubious to us. Unfortunately, the term has thus become a political fighting term ("You are fake news!").  The scientific umbrella term is therefore "disinformation", fake news is subordinate to this and one of many types of manipulation.

What types of manipulation of disinformation are there?

Fake News

Fake News is false and/or misleading information circulated with the intention of harming a person, institutions or organisations.  Various rumours and false reports are provided with fake "evidence" and combined into one news item. Corresponding contributions from other users flow into the supposed "chain of evidence". In this way, entire fake plots can be created. Often, pictures are simply taken out of context in order to deliberately change a story.

Deep Fakes

Deep Fakes are a subcategory of fake news that use the persuasive power of audiovisual media to achieve their manipulative effect. They are electronically modified moving images or photos that alter or simulate people and events.

Social Bots

Social Bots are machine-controlled and programmed profiles in social networks. They pretend to be normal human users, so they usually have a photo and a made-up name. Their goal is to influence social interaction and the formation of opinion in social networks through the mass forwarding of fake news.


Trolls are human users. They deliberately try to disrupt or interrupt discussions in social networks. Trolls try to defame other users as trolls, polarise and provoke.
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"Belastungsprobe für die Demokratie – Kampf gegen Desinformation und Narrative"

Workshop Cafe Kyiv


Disinformation as a weapon in the information war

The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine once again shows the military importance of the information space. The Russian Federation, but also other authoritarian countries, try to influence public opinion in their favour and destabilise democratic societies through disinformation. Especially in times of war, it becomes apparent that disinformation can be used and spread as a weapon in a targeted manner. For example, many reports about Russian attacks are based on pictures and videos that people on the ground take with their mobile devices and spread on social media such as TikTok or via messenger services. Such images and videos shape the information space and can be crucial for disinformation or information of attackers, defenders or the population. They affect morale and provide information about the latest developments in the war.


Disinformation shakes trust in media

Moreover, broad-based disinformation campaigns can have a corrosive effect: By shaking trust in information and its truthfulness, controlled campaigns have the power to affect the credibility of even genuinely trustworthy sources of information. Disinformation can contribute to a considerable questioning of the self-image of journalistic work, its reliability and transparency.


Disinformation manipulates public opinion

Especially in the run-up to elections, disinformation can create a particular political impact, with the aim of manipulating social discussions or degrading the reputation of a person or institution. Politically motivated campaigns are organised either directly by state actors or by mandated non-state actors. In countries without stable democratic conditions, for example, content can also be disseminated by state-controlled media, statements amplified and the political opinion-forming of the population considerably impaired.

Defamation and disparagement are sometimes publicly exposed afterwards as hate speech, but doubts and mistrust often remain. Corrections and truths in the course of once spread disinformation do not reach all consumers of disinformation again.


Society and state need resilience

The forms of disinformation and the way it is disseminated will also "evolve" as the digital transformation continues - it will be a perpetual race between new techniques and practices and new rules or measures to draw boundaries.

To make democracies resilient and steadfast against disinformation, strategic communication is needed alongside independent media, good journalism.

Digital and media literacy must be developed across generations. Through systematic education, state institutions and authorities, as well as journalists in particular, can contribute through their reporting to pointing out the power of "disinformation" and the importance of the information space, and thus to taking action against it.

Country Reports
Reuters / Aleksandra Szmigiel
August 29, 2022
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Single title
June 29, 2022
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Single title
shutterstock/Carabus • Karl-Michael Constien und racken GmbH, Berlin • yellow too, Pasiek Horntrich GbR
July 28, 2022
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Reuters / Fabrizio Bensch
March 23, 2022
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Media library

In conversation with Dr. Christopher Nehring
Russian propaganda worldwide: South-Eastern Europe
War propaganda, disinformation: Russia tries to influence public discourse in many ways - tailored to the political situation in the respective country.
In conversation with Sebastian Grundberger
Russian propaganda worldwide: Latin America
How does Russia spread its interpretation of the invasion of Ukraine in Latin America? What role do historically developed connections with certain countries play in this?
A conversation with Christoph Plate
Russian propaganda worldwide: Sub-Saharan Africa
Russia has been waging a brutal war of aggression in Ukraine for months - and in parallel is trying to justify the assault with distortions and false claims.
(Social) Media as a Game-Changer in Warfare
The Russian war of aggression on Ukraine is a "Zeitenwende" in German politics.

Events on the topic



International Conference "Disinformation in Southeast Europe"
„Blurring the Truth – Disinformation in Southeast Europe“