Germany’s media market under the disinformation lens

Germany’s media market under the disinformation lens

  • November 12, 2020

New research from the Global Disinformation Index (GDI) shows that half of German media sites present medium risks levels of carrying disinformation. 

These findings are based on an analysis of 30 German-language media sites, including some of the highest-traffic and most used sites in the country (see figure 1). 

Figure 1: Media sites assessed in Germany (in alphabetical order)

Three sites assessed in Germany have minimum disinformation risks: www.ard.dewww.br.de and www.tagesschau.de. Six sites fell into the low-risk category (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Risk Ratings for German Media Sites

Thirty percent of our sample—including some of Germany’s most followed news sites—are also those with the lowest levels of disinformation risk. This notable group of sites have a very limited number of disinformation flags across the three pillars. 

While these strengths are commendable, a majority of German media sites generally lack many of the recommended operational checks and balances, and are shown to have mixed levels of brand trust by their online users. 

Strengthening operational and editorial policies could help mitigate the risk of disinformation and increase brand trust.

For example, the majority of domains do not state that their newsrooms are independent from their publishers. Unfortunately, the German Press Code does not require its members to follow such a policy. In contrast to publicly-funded media sites in Germany, privately-owned media outlets in our sample do not always publish information on who owns or funds them.

Policies of this kind have been agreed by journalists as part of the Journalism Trust Initiative standard, a universal framework created by media and journalists for their industry.

Figure 3: Average Pillar Score, by Risk Rating

There are only two maximum-risk sites in our German sample. These two sites generally demonstrate multiple risk flags for all of the three pillars. They tend to use their stories to negatively target specific groups and/or individuals, and have very low levels of brand trust by online users.

The report is the first of its kind done on the German media market. It applies the GDI methodology for assessing disinformation risk in three areas: the reliability of the site’s content, the site’s operational checks and balances, and how informed online readers perceive the overall context of the sites. The assessment was conducted between February and June 2020. Only the top performing sites are named in the report.

The overall market risk score across the three pillars for Germany is 59 (see Figure 3). Germany is one of 10 countries which will be assessed in 2020 using this methodology.

The report’s findings serve as a road map to address the risk areas that were found. Suggested measures include:

  • Improve the implementation of country-specific journalistic and operational standards recommended by the German Press Code, and expand upon these recommendations by adopting and aligning with the standards set by the Journalism Trust Initiative.
  • Ensure that sites consistently publish statements of editorial independence, ownership and funding sources which are easily findable for online users (for instance by adding such information to the ‘Impressum’ page).
  • Emphasise the need to publish policies on algorithmically and synthetically generated content as it becomes more widely adopted in German newsrooms.
  • Highlight article authorship clearly and consistently by adding bylines and providing background information on authors on individual profile pages.
  • Improve and make more visible a site’s correction practices by publishing policies on error corrections and submitting correction requests, in accordance with recommendations by the German Press Council.

GDI looks forward to working with news sites and media bodies in Germany to advance these policies and other actions that will create a bulwark against disinformation risks.

Download the report in ENGLISH and GERMAN.

If you are interested in learning more about this study or GDI’s work, please contact us via info@disinformationindex.org.

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