Karolin Schwarz and Lutz Helm confronted online media falsifications by creating HoaxMap Feb. 8. The focus was to dispel rumors about migrants and the relation to increased crime rates. The map was released online, as well as by hoaxmap.org. The map pin-points exact locations where criminal activity was said to have taken place.
The map shows the local crime reports involving migrants in Germany, showing local crime reports involving migrants. The country is one of many that is currently under a refugee crisis. Such a dramatic influx has prompted fear from some Germans.
There are more than 200 rumors. Public fear is charted on a visual plane, allowing viewers to form a new opinion concerning information-gathering through social media. The pins provide a description, accompanied by completed police investigations proving the falsehood of the alleged crimes. Reports range from vandalism and property damage to rape and sexual assault.
Currently, there is no statistical evidence to support a correlation between migrants and increased crime.
Saeed Mirzaee, the executive chef at the University of Central Oklahoma, is an immigrant from Iran. He left his country to escape an oppressive regime and further his education in America more than 35 years ago. He attended Rose State before transferring to University of Central Oklahoma and completing his degree in industrial technology.
“In 1979, I left Iran because of the regime change. Iran was a disaster but not many people wanted to leave Iran. Their heritage was there; their husbands were in Iran and their families were there … I got the last seat on the plane out of Abadan, Iran, to America. I was the only Iranian on the plane, most were American people there because of the oil,” Mirzaee said. 2
Mirzaee went on to discuss the hardships of assimilation and moving to a new country.
“The hardest part about being away from my home was the culture. The different dialects were difficult to understand,” he said. “All the language and rules were difficult to pick up. I knew too many people that came here and said, ‘I can’t stay.’ They want to go back to Iran because it is so difficult here. I knew people who threatened suicide rather than face the assimilation and harsh judgment in America.”
Social media has perpetuated a historical fear and has gone viral with reported incidents. Users do not necessarily validate the authenticity of a source before sharing it or passing it along.
“Since the middle of last year, we’re witnessing an increasing trend of rumours about asylum seekers going viral — ranging from [migrants] poaching swans to desecrating graves. Those stories are collected here,” wrote Schwarz on Hoaxmap.
The map faced criticism for not including accurate events among the inaccurate. By not addressing the relationship between factual news and rumors, Hoaxmap is considered vulnerable. The concession of true crimes compared to the false accusations could create a foil that demonstrates both negative and positive aspects of social media’s influence.
The anonymity online allowed users to express extreme ideas produced from malice. Schwarz confronted the anonymity with Hoaxmap.