Germany Rebuts Travel Alert on Terror in Sweden as Fake News

  • Foreign ministry points to German anti-immigration party
  • Merkel’s government in election-year crackdown on fake content

Germany’s Foreign Ministry denied claims on social media that it had issued a terrorism-related travel warning for Sweden and linked the fake content to an anti-immigration party.

Facebook sites linked to the Alternative for Germany party posted over the weekend that U.S. President Donald Trump rightly pointed out the dangers of Sweden’s multicultural society because the foreign ministry had issued a travel warning amid a heightened terror threat in the country. The ministry denied making such a warning.

“Warning: Fake News!” the Berlin-based ministry said on its Facebook page, adding that Sweden hasn’t changed its terror threat level since March 2016. The only security-related change in the country since Trump took office in January “relates to alcohol consumption in public,” according to the German ministry.

Ahead of Germany’s national election in September, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is increasing pressure on social networks such as Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. to curb the spread of fake news and malicious posts. Her government, which includes the country’s two biggest political parties, is working on legislation to fine the sites for failing to remove illegal content.

Facebook has said it will work with independent fact checkers in Germany to identify fake news and tag such stories with a warning. Alternative for Germany, or AfD, blankets Facebook with anti-government messages several times a day with headlines including “Take your country back” and images such as one showing Merkel’s face on a “wanted” poster. Polls suggest the party is poised to win its first seats in the German lower house this year as it channels opponents of Merkel’s open-borders refugee policy.

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