As the dust settles in the United States after the elections, another big economy and a major American ally is now scared that social bots could very well swing its election next year. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel told lawmakers on Wednesday that “In order to reach people, to inspire people, we need to deal with this phenomenon and – where necessary – regulate it,” This comes as she announced plans on Sunday to seek a fourth term in office.
Well this does ring a bell. Just after the American elections, many began to blame the likes of Facebook and Twitter for the outcome. On Facebook’s part, even its own staff accused the management of doing little about it and then under pressure, mark Zuckerberg announced plans to stem the flow of fake news on the site.
Reuters report that In a sign of how seriously Merkel is taking the matter, she invited Simon Hegelich, professor of political data science at the Technical University of Munich, to brief the executive committee of her Christian Democrats (CDU) on Monday.
“Merkel is really interested in the topic of bots and fake news and hate speech on the Internet and she’s very well informed,” said Hegelich.
While all of Germany’s political parties have said they will not deploy bots in the campaign, the fact that they are mostly anonymous makes it hard to work out who is behind them. Hegelich does not rule out third parties using them to try to discredit parties or politicians.
The role social media plays in shaping public opinion cannot be overemphasised hence the need to try and tackle the issue of bots determining the outcome of elections instead. It was said that Mrs Clinton won all three debates and had a stronger potion with respect to message but still lost the election. The blame has therefore fallen on Facebook and Germany doesn’t want that to happen next year in its own elections.