German domestic intelligence agencies are operating hundreds of fake right-wing extremists accounts on social media, according to a report by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. These fake agents are inciting both hatred and violence, the report states.
“This is the future of information gathering,” an agent told the newspaper.
The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bfv) echoed the same remarks, arguing that the accounts are necessary to gather information. But according to critics, these accounts could be actively promoting and encouraging radicalism.
The newspaper's research found out that the government has heavily invested in “virtual agents” since 2019 using taxpayers' money.
The Bfv says that the agents operating the fake accounts have to play “a little right-wing radical” to gain the trust of real extremists. Therefore, the agents probably spread propaganda and engage in crimes such as incitement to hatred. It is not clear what exactly the fake agents do due to the lack of oversight.
An agent who joined the Bfv to “do something against right-wing extremists” said: “In order to be really credible, it is not enough to share or like what others say, you also have to make statements yourself. That means that the agents also bully and agitate.”
Süddeutshce Zeitung reported that there are so many fake accounts run by different agencies that there is a need for a nationwide agreement so that agents do not target each other.