German Intelligence admitted it deployed “dozens” of fake accounts on social media to spy on right wing activists and anti-vaxxers, revisiting the days of communist rule in the former East Germany.
Last week, the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SDZ) newspaper published the story about an unnamed employee of the German Bureau for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), a federal intelligence agency that has increasingly engaged itself in monitoring possibly subversive groups like left and right wing activists, communists, and coronavirus deniers.
“This is the future of information gathering,” the source told the journal, adding that “dozens” of colleagues have full-time jobs operating several online profiles.
Trying not to get influenced
Their job is to infiltrate and spy on various online communities on social media who might have subversive sympathies or have the audacity to question the official narrative about the coronavirus outbreak and the Russia-Ukraine war.
“In order to be really credible, it is not enough to share or like what others say. You also have to make statements yourself,” the informant said. “That means that the agents also bully and agitate.”
The agent said she joined the BfV forces in order to “do something against right-wing extremists,” even if this means she would find herself affirming others in their extreme worldviews.
“Of course, I encourage people in their worldview,” she added. The woman said her main aim was to win their objects’ trust and even sympathy. She said that what it takes is “that you feed this bubble.”
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In order to gain the trust of members of the hardcore right, she said she would be entitled to commit “scene-typical” propaganda crimes, which might entail incitement to hatred. “In principle, I spread an ideology that others then find better,” the source said.
The return of unofficial collaborators
It’s like back in the old days of the communist German Democratic Republic (DDR) when everyone was encouraged to eavesdrop on one another.
Reportedly, during the heydays, 1 in 90 citizens were believed to be agents—or unofficial collaborators (Inoffizieller Mitarbeiter, or IM) for the State Security Service (Stasi) by the end of the 1970s.
The source also shared with the newspaper that her biggest challenge lies in not getting influenced herself and to not start believing in “conspiracy theories,” which raise uncomfortable questions about the validity of the mainstream narrative about COVID-19 policies and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
“Because it’s completely abstruse,” she said. “Confused, and at the same time, it’s topics that also occupy you in real life. Corona. Ukraine. Sometimes you go crazy when you read what people believe. There are those who believe in a flat earth. Some of them are insanely left behind,” she said. “Maybe that’s what I find so exhausting. The despair.”
Gagging opposing voices
It brings to mind the policy adopted by the federal administration to spy on members of the mainstream conservative party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), which were also apparently listed as potential terrorist threats in four federal states.
The party members’ classification as a potential terrorist threat allows the BfV to spy on any individual and infiltrate their party ranks. Whether the AfD members are being hassled or whether they are just part of a greater agenda serving as political theater, nobody can tell for sure.
The same goes for the claim last December from reporters with state broadcaster ZDF, who bragged they had helped thwart an assault on the Saxon Prime Minister, the CDU politician Michael Kretschmer.
Reportedly, ZDF journalists were spying on a Telegram group of “radical anti-vaccination activists” called “Dresden Offlinevernetzung,” who were hoarding together to put their evil plans into practice.
Luckily, according to the outlet, agents who had infiltrated the group helped avoid a disaster, and when the feds were flown in, BfV operatives could hand over all readily prepared evidence, time-stamped screenshots, and the like.
At least, so the story goes. True or not, it provides another affirmation that will help justify the government’s urge to gain an ever tighter grip on free speech and curb dissenting political voices.