“So far we have not been able to track down any specific Russian activity,” Simon Hegelich, a professor of political science data at the Technical University of Munich who has advised the German government about the threat of hacking and false information, told USA Today.
According to Hegelich, America’s so-called ‘Alt-right’ movement, a term which defines far-right ideology which includes racism and white nationalism, appears to be aiming to influence the German election.
A lot of the stuff we are seeing in Germany can be linked to, or is at least inspired by, the ‘Alt-right’ movement in the US,” Hegelich said.
According to USA Today, analysts say right-wing groups are behind election-related materials being posted on YouTube, as well as message board sites such as 4chan and Reddit, and texting service Gab.ai.
An analysis of 300 million tweets over the past six months by Hegelich and his research colleagues found many online posts regarding the German election which included the hashtag #AltRight.
Many of those posts originate in the US, Hegelich said, while baselessly stating that some of the posts coming out of the US may be connected to Russia interference, but that such information is difficult to determine.
However, Sandro Gaycken, founder and director of the Berlin-based Digital Society Institute, also stressed there has been no evidence of Russian meddling.
“We haven’t seen any trace of the Russians, just right-wingers,” Gaycken said.
Melissa Hooper, an expert on legal and civil society issues related to former Soviet Union countries, looked at the possibility of Russian meddling from a different angle, noting that if Moscow had any information on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, that information would have been made public.
“If the Russians have any juicy information obtained on Merkel or anyone else they probably would have dumped it by now,” she said.