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7 Out Of The 10 Most Viral Articles About Angela Merkel On Facebook Are False

The most popular fake news post about the German chancellor leads to a Catholic version of YouTube that's apparently run by people in Moscow using servers in Moldova. Yes, seriously.

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There have been hundreds of articles and videos published about the Angela Merkel, but no German-language post has attracted more shares, comments, and reactions on Facebook in the last five years than a video from Gloria.tv headlined "Angela Merkel: Germans have to accept foreigners' violence."

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With about 273,000 Facebook reactions, comments, and shares, it's by far the most successful German post about Merkel on Facebook. It's also false.

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Using BuzzSumo, BuzzFeed News identified the articles about Angela Merkel published in the last five years that generated the highest total number of shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook. Of the top 10, seven were false or a hoax, and the remaining three were either true or based on an opinion. All 10 were slanted against Merkel.

The analysis found that false stories and fake news about Merkel spread widely on Facebook, especially when linked with the topic of refugees. These stories come from far-right websites and other nontraditional media, and outperform traditional media coverage of the chancellor. One reason this content spreads so widely is that it's shared by a variety of right-wing Facebook pages and groups.

This finding is similar to a previous BuzzFeed News analysis of German and English-language content about Merkel that looked at the top-performing content in 2016.

The analysis also shows that German websites are not the only ones getting in on the action. One of the most successful posts is based on a video by far-right Canadian media outlet The Rebel.

YouTube

Although Ezra Levant of The Rebel is highly critical of Merkel in the video, he does not label her “insane” — the German version simply added that to the headline.

The list of top-performing content also includes supposedly satirical articles that fooled people. One that claimed that "Angela Merkel was run over in a traffic accident" was published by a "website for funny pictures," debeste.de. That site is registered to an address in Poland.

German website Eine-Zeitung.net also published the article "Merkel wants to give all refugees the right to vote as soon as possible", which earned the second-most engagements on Facebook. But, aside from the words "In Satira Veritas" ("Truth in Satire") in the logo, there is no indication the post is satirical. Many readers thought the satirical articles were real and scolded Merkel and the lying press in the comments.

The top post about Merkel, from Gloria.tv, is a 7-second video clip in which the chancellor only says one sentence.

gloria.tv

Since its publication in January 2015, the clip has generated 639,400 clicks, according to a traffic counter on the page. The video title says, "Angela Merkel: Germans have to accept foreigners' violence."

But does Merkel actually promote acceptance of foreigners' violence like it says in the headline? No. The sentence in the video is taken out of context and the headline turns her real statement into the opposite of what it meant.

Gloria.tv / BuzzFeed

What she actually says is "...but we have to accept that the number of crimes is particularly high among young immigrants."

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The clip is taken from a 2011 video, according to German fact-checking website Mimikama.

bundeskanzlerin.de

Here is Angela Merkel's full statement:

"The thing here is to ensure security on the ground and to eradicate the causes of violence in the society at the same time. This applies to all parts of the society, but we have to accept that the number of crimes is particularly high among young immigrants. Therefore, the theme of integration is connected with the issue of violence prevention in all parts of our society."

Merkel doesn't mean that Germans have to accept the fact that there's more violence among young immigrants. Instead, she says that the high number of crimes needs to be recognized and not ignored. By being shortened and headlined as, "Germans must accept the violence of foreigners," the meaning was warped.

Gloria.tv's slogan is "the more Catholic the better." It's a platform similar to YouTube where users can upload videos.

gloria.tv

In 2013, news site Die Zeit called Gloria.tv aggressive and right-wing after it showed German liberal priests, who supported the morning-after pill, with swastikas. The website itself was founded by Roman Catholic priest Reto Nay from Switzerland. However, since 2014 his name is no longer associated with the website. It's not clear who runs it now, but the Gloria.tv servers are registered in Moldova, and have a contact address in Moscow.

This is the building where the contact for the website is supposed to be based. There is no email address or telephone number. BuzzFeed News mailed a letter containing questions for Gloria.tv to its address in Moscow, but has not received a response.

BuzzFeed News contacted the user account, Tina 13, that uploaded the viral video on Gloria.tv. The person who replied denied they are the creator of the video.

BuzzFeed

A few minutes after our exchange, Tina 13 deleted the video from their, but it can still be found here.

It's unlikely that Gloria.tv user "Tina 13" is the person who made the original shortened Merkel video. The YouTube version of the video dates back to 2014. However, the YouTube version only has about 50,000 Facebook interactions, far fewer than the Gloria.tv one.

How BuzzFeed collected the data:

BuzzFeed used the content analysis tool BuzzSumo. This tool allows you to search by keywords, URLs, and time periods and to sort the results according to the number of interactions in social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

BuzzFeed News searched in BuzzSumo for all articles in German that have the keywords "Angela Merkel", "Merkel", "Chancellor of Germany" or "Chancellor" in the title. It is therefore possible that either we or BuzzSumo missed articles about Merkel. If that's the case, we would appreciate any feedback on what we missed.

BuzzSumo only allows for the last five years to be searched. We collected our data between July 17 and July 25, 2017.

At this point, it is important to emphasize once again that Facebook interactions do not translate automatically into website traffic. This analysis focused on the most successful individual articles about Angela Merkel. This does not mean that alternative media generate more overall traffic than the websites of traditional German media.

This post was translated from German.

Karsten Schmehl ist Senior Staff Writer bei BuzzFeed und lebt in Berlin.

Contact Karsten Schmehl at karsten.schmehl@buzzfeed.com.

Jane Lytvynenko is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto, Canada. PGP fingerprint: A088 89E6 2500 AD3C 8081 BAFB 23BA 21F3 81E0 101C.

Contact Jane Lytvynenko at jane.lytvynenko@buzzfeed.com.

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