Spread Of Misinformation 'Pandemic Within A Pandemic,' German General Counsel Says
The United States and Germany are coming together to combat misinformation focusing on the Holocaust, COVID-19 pandemic and fighting hate speech.
During Friday's visit to Cincinnati's Holocaust and Humanity Center, Wolfgang Moessigner, the German Consulate General Chicago, spoke to museum constituents about the Washington Declaration, which seeks to lay out the future scope of cooperation between the U.S. and Germany. Part of the agreement focuses on fighting misinformation.
Moessinger calls the rapid spread of misinformation a "pandemic within a pandemic," noting the protests against COVID-19 lockdowns he's seeing in his native country.
"There always now, every now and then, one of the speakers coming up and saying 'vaccines are poisonous; vaccines are this or that and my child is never getting a vaccine because I don’t want it to be manipulated,' and things like that," Moessinger said. "What is disappointing is that nobody stands up to them and says, 'No, this is ridiculous.' "
He pointed out differences between how freedom of speech in the U.S and Germany is treated on social media and that countries are still looking at a more universal approach to combating misinformation and hate speech through social media.
"Freedom of expression, First Amendment is absolutely priority, it's the top," Moessinger said. "In Germany, it's a little bit less open. You might face much easier defamation if you insult politicians or whoever else."
HHC CEO Sarah Weiss addressed Holocaust denial and misinformation during a joint webinar held that morning. She notes Holocaust denial is used to delegitimize Jewish history. Meanwhile, misinformation is used to trivialize the genocide, such as comparing mask and vaccine mandates to what Jews experienced during the Holocaust.
"A vaccine mandate is not the same as tattooing a prisoner and dehumanizing them and putting them in a concentration camp," Weiss said.
Last month, a report from the Center to Counter Digital Hate revealed five major social media companies, including Facebook and Twitter, took no action to remove 84% of antisemitic posts. Several studies show links between the prevalence of racist speech on social media platforms and hate crimes within their respective regions.