German gov’t met with representatives of social networks in 2020 over COVID-related posts: Report

German gov’t met with representatives of social networks in 2020 over COVID-related posts: Report

Government reportedly met with social network representatives in 1st year of pandemic to crack down on disinformation

By Timur Kirez

BERLIN (AA) - The German government reportedly met with representatives of the world’s largest social networks including Facebook, Instagram and YouTube in the summer of 2020 as the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic had subsided and dissatisfaction with related government actions in Germany was growing.

At this meeting, the government is said to have addressed "the corona pandemic and the spread of misinformation, false information and disinformation that can be observed in this context," the Bild daily reported Wednesday.

The goal of the meeting was to clarify "how the challenge associated with this can be fundamentally addressed."

According to the report, the meeting was attended by employees of several German ministries, lobbyists of US corporations, and an important confidant of then-Chancellor Angela Merkel, government spokesman Steffen Seibert.

What exactly the government demanded from the social networks in dealing with so-called misinformation and whether the social networks complied with the demands remains unclear.

"No decisions were made," a government spokesman told Bild.

An inquiry from the newspaper to the US companies went unanswered.

The meeting is causing irritation in Berlin. The vice chairman of the Free Democratic Party (FDP), Wolfgang Kubicki, whose government inquiry revealed the event, expressed concern to Bild.

"Article 5 of our Basic Law states: 'Censorship does not take place.' Citizens must expect that the previous federal government under Angela Merkel did not violate this principle," Kubicki told the newspaper.

Kubicki, who is also vice president of the German federal parliament, or Bundestag, called for clarification.

"Of course, we cannot exclude the possibility that there was possible influence on Twitter and Co. not only in the US, but also in this country," he added.

According to the politician, the question arises over "what thoughts were actually to be and were exchanged with the Internet services in the summer of 2020."

He said he expects the Federal Ministry of Health and the Chancellery to "create the necessary transparency so that false conclusions about possible influence can be avoided."

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