Danish security agency warns that fake news can spur terror attacks

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Danish security agency warns that fake news can spur terror attacks
CTA warned that the spread of "threatening and hostile comments [...] rumours and fake news" could trigger some individuals to take violent action. Photo: Håkon Mosvold Larsen / NTB scanpix

A new terror assessment report from the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET) warns that fake news and misinformation online could spur mentally unstable individuals to carry out violent attacks.


PET’s Center for Terror Analysis (CTA) released its latest terror assessment on Tuesday, which warned that foreign fighters who have returned to Denmark pose a significant security risk and that more and more women are taking “active and independent roles in the Islamist environment”. 
The report also pointed to the dangers that can arise as a result of the vast amount of misinformation that flourishes online. 
“Social media is increasingly used to make threatening and hostile comments, including those aimed at public figures, and to spread rumours and fake news. While the majority of these statements do not lead to concrete terror plans, CTA assesses that such declarations could lead certain mentally unstable or very impressionable people to commit violent acts in the nature of terrorism,” the CTA report reads. 
Media analyst Jan Birkemose told news agency Ritzau that he agrees with CTA’s assessment that fake news can be a security issue. 
“I can definitely imagine how fake news could trigger a feeling that gets an extra twist when you aren’t concerned with the truth. It could definitely influence the mentally unstable and unbalanced,” he said. 
“Fake news is a huge problem. You can’t, however, just isolate fake news as the only problem. They [fake stories, ed.] destroy our overall confidence in information, so that even real news risks losing credibility,” Birkemose added. 
The media analyst said that the situation we are seeing in the United States, where fake news is thought to have influenced the presidential election outcome and where President Donald Trump has shown a penchant for buying into conspiracy theories, is cause for serious concern.
“When even the president of the United States is notoriously and deliberately spreading fake news, we end up in a situation in which no one can trust anything,” Birkemose said. 
While CTA’s report pointed to the potential dangers of fake news, its overall assessment was that Denmark continues to face a serious terror threat. The agency pointed to Isis, and the Islamist group’s sympathizers, as the biggest dangers facing the country. 
The full threat assessment can be read here, in Danish. 


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