Germany’s Green Party Leader, Annalena Baerbock, has publicly stated her campaign’s intention for a tough stance on Chinese and Russian leaders. In return, an alleged Russian cyber campaign has been targeting Baerbock on social media platforms.
Baerbock has pressured for a tougher stance on Russia and China to protect human rights and democracy. With the growing support of the Green Party in Germany and Baerbock becoming the party’s lead candidate, public interest has grown surrounding her policies.
In an interview with FAZ newspaper, Baerbock stated her wish to increase pressure on Russia’s military approach to the Ukrainian border. Baerbock has also publicly urged European political leaders to withdraw their support of the controversial Nord Stream 2 Russian gas pipeline.
According to an article by The Guardian, Baerbock has been the victim of a defamatory social media campaign, allegedly led by Russians. They report that there are fake images of Baerbock circulating social media. The images include fake nude pictures and interactions with George Soros. The cyber campaign is trying to discredit Baerbock by connecting her to far-right and QAnon’s conspiracy theories. The conspiracy theorists believe billionaire Soros is the leader and mastermind of international conspiracies.
In an article by DW, Josephine Ballon from HateAid, said they were not surprised by the fake content and hate made about Baerbock online, but the “the sheer speed and extent” of the content surprised them, following her nomination on April 19th. Ballon believes the backlash has been “gender-specific hate.” The article mentions, the fake information spread online directed towards women is often more sexualized, and it is all part of the attempt to discredit Baerbock as a political leader.
Connecting Baerbock to popular conspiracy theories could affect her political image for those consuming media and failing to fact-check. With the Green Party’s ongoing opposition from the right-wing, the Russian cyber campaign could prove to be successful. Therefore, it is important for the public to be aware of possible misinformation circulating on online platforms.
Cem Özdemir believes Putin is concerned over the German Green Party’s tough stance on authoritarianism, which could be the main reason for the attempt to discredit Baerbock. In a Bild’s article, “Kreml-Kampagne gegen Baerbock!,” Özdemir states he is not surprised with the Russian-led campaign against Baerbock. He says, “In order to prevent the Greens in the government, the Kremlin can be trusted with any means,” and he advises the public “not to participate in Putin’s dirty campaign.”
The public should keep in mind that the Kremlin’s focus is to further Russia’s agenda which is, in many ways, in stark contrast to liberal democratic ideals. The Green Party’s values, in many ways, are also in contrast to Russia’s agenda.
The Green Party stands for nonviolence, so Baerbock is speaking out against possible violence at the Ukrainian border, is in line with the party’s values. The Green Party also supports feminism and gender equality, so the mysoginistic attack against Baerbock online, is in contrast with what Baerbock stands for. In DW‘s article, Johannes Hillje says, “As a female, successful, liberal politician, Baerbock meets a lot of the criteria of their classic image of ‘the enemy.'”
Social media such as Twitter and Facebook have been excellent tools for sharing information at high speeds to a wide public. However, it has also been a tool for disinformation, conspiracy theories, and dangerous extremism. Various individuals and organizations have spread disinformation before, but it is extremely difficult to know the exact origins of disinformation and be able to track down specific people. In DW’s article, they mention the Green’s plan to combat disinformation “with the party’s “Netzfeuerwehr” (network fire brigade), which was set up ahead of the 2017 federal election to report fake content and online hate speech.”