Recognizing and combating the dynamics of disinformation (DYNAMO)

Free democratic decision-making is increasingly being challenged by disinformation spread via messenger services (WhatsApp, Telegram, etc.), as demonstrated by the mass dissemination of false, inaccurate or misleading information in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic (“infodemic”).

In contrast to public posts on social networks and quasi-journalistic platforms, communication via messenger services predominantly takes place in the shadows (so-called “dark social”). This form of dissemination is also characterised by the fact that information flows quickly, directly and in masses between individuals as well as in groups, channels and broadcasts.

In order to comprehensively investigate the highly dynamic subject of digital disinformation, the research project DYNAMO (Dynamiken der Desinformation Erkennen und Bekämpfen) involves interdisciplinary collaboration between researchers from the fields of computer science, journalism, social psychology and law.

Building on previous research results of the project partners in the field of digital disinformation, the DYNAMO project focusses on messenger services and the media formats used there, such as audio and video messages. Firstly, the project will select topics with a high potential for disinformation and identify relevant channels. Next, automated data collection is carried out, whereby data protection is ensured by a privacy-by-design infrastructure. On this basis, dissemination patterns within messengers and from messengers to other media will be recognised. In addition, usage practices, emotional components and characteristics of disinformation that lead to particularly strong dissemination will be determined. Finally, social, technical and legal measures to combat disinformation will be analysed.

The University of Kassel, Department of Public Law, IT Law and Environmental Law, is focussing on the legal analysis of the subject, discussing fundamental constitutional problems associated with the dynamics of digital disinformation. In particular, the privacy of some dissemination spaces and the invisibility of the flow of information pose new legal questions with regard to recognising and combating disinformation in accordance with fundamental rights in comparison to publicly accessible social media and quasi-journalistic platforms. Fundamental rights such as the privacy of communication, freedom of expression as well as the principle of democracy, which is based on the free formation of will, must be optimally balanced.

Further key questions arise in relation to the legal responsibility of messenger service providers and the legal requirements for community standards.

In addition, the impact and effectiveness of legal policy measures, such as the German Telecommunications Act and the EU's Digital Services Act, will be analysed in relation to the subject of the research and ideas for further regulatory instruments will be developed.

The project is being coordinated by the Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology SIT (Prof. Steinebach). Further project partners are the University of Duisburg-Essen, Social Psychology (Prof. Krämer), and Hochschule der Medien Stuttgart, Journalism Studies (Prof. Bader and Prof. Rinsdorf).

Further information on DYNAMO can be found on the website of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Project information

Federal Ministry of Education and Research

September 2021 - August 2024

Project leader:
Prof. Dr. Gerrit Hornung, LL.M.

Tahireh Panahi