Gruppenbild vom ersten Treffen des Bürgerrates im Forum gegen Fakes am 16.03.2024

Standing together for a strong democracy: citizens’ panel Forum against Fakes has started

The big day finally arrived on 15. March: more than 120 people from all over Germany came together to spend a weekend discussing the topic of disinformation and how to deal with it. The atmosphere could not have been better, and to cap it all, the sun was shining brightly when the citizens’ panel “Forum against Fakes” got under way at the Kronprinzenpalais in Berlin. A perfect start! 

Contact persons

Foto Dominik Hierlemann
Dr. Dominik Hierlemann
Senior Advisor
Foto Angela Jain
Dr. Angela Jain
Senior Project Manager
Anna Renkamp
Senior Project Manager
Foto Christian Huesmann
Dr. Christian Huesmann
Senior Project Manager
Foto Stefan Roch
Dr. Stefan Roch
Project Manager

Content

In the Forum against Fakes, more than 120 citizens from all over Germany are working together to devise recommendations on how to deal with disinformation. A particular feature is the diversity of the participants and the differences between their views. Participants come from every federal state, from small villages and big cities, and the mixture of gender, age, level of education and migration background is a fair reflection of the diversity of German society. At the kick-off meeting of the Citizens’ Panel from 15. to 17.03.2024, the participants exchanged views about their personal experience and were given some insights into the upcoming topics before discussing possible ways of dealing with disinformation. Expert input came from representatives of the Hans Bredow Institute, the Free University of Berlin, ISD Germany and Wikimedia Deutschland e.V. , as well as other stakeholders such as YouTube DACH/CEE, the German Domestic Intelligence Services (BfV) or online safety organisation Deutschland sicher im Netz e.V.

Disinformation is a threat to our democracy

Disinformation presents a large challenge for Germany: As a result of new technologies and programmes, it is particularly easy to “fake” images, videos or spoken word recordings now. Deliberately falsified or deceitful statements can be circulated rapidly and are often shared or forwarded without being verified. This can lead to uncertainty and a loss of trust within society. In this way, disinformation can also become a threat to democracy. This is clearly shown in the Bertelsmann Stiftung study "Verunsicherte Öffentlichkeit" (“Unsettled Public”). The aim of the project “Forum against Fakes – Together for a strong democracy” – run by Bertelsmann Stiftung in cooperation with the Federal Ministry of the Interior and Community, the Stiftung Mercator and the Michael Otto Foundation for Sustainability – is to combat these developments. The combines a broad-based online participation, which started in January 2024 (you can see some initial results here), with the work of a Citizens’ Panel.

Forum against Fakes: disinformation meets Citizens’ Panel

Why Citizens’ Panels? The reason is simple: Simply voting in elections is no longer enough for many citizens. They are demanding up-to-date ways of participating directly in political discussions and decision-making processes by making topic-related, concrete contributions. In addition, citizens’ panels with members selected at random also allow sensitive political issues to be discussed objectively and – above all – with a focus on ordinary people. Citizens are given new insights into issues which are often complex and are able to gain first-hand experience of societal negotiation processes. Conversely, decision-makers gain an insight into the everyday lives of ordinary people.

In a democracy, simply voting in elections isn’t enough. We must involve citizens in political and social issues more than ever before.

Daniela Schwarzer, Executive Board member, Bertelsmann Stiftung

A constructive debate and broad consensus of opinions on the recommendations submitted to political decision-makers has been achieved through intense concentration on the topic in the form of structured, well-informed discussions in large and small groups. Particularly in the case of controversial topics such as disinformation, this adds weight and depth to decisions affecting society as a whole.

Forum against Fakes: What happens next?

Following the successful start, members of the Citizens’ Panel will hold three digital meetings in April and May, in which various topic groups will develop their own recommendations for dealing with disinformation that will then be discussed with policymakers and representatives of various parties and organisations. The recommendations will be finalised at the last meeting of the Citizens’ Panel at the end of May before they are incorporated into a Citizens’ Report in the course of the summer 2024. Before that, there will be online participation phases on www.forum-against-fakes.de; the current phase will run until 1. April and is open to all. The Citizens’ Report will be presented to Mrs. Nancy Faeser, the Federal Minister of the Interior and Community, and other stakeholders from the fields of politics, civil society and business in September 2024.

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