One of the governing parties of Germany - the CDU/CSU - claimed on Twitter that American corporations "bought" demonstrators at the recent demonstrations against article 13:

Wenn amerikanische Konzerne mit massivem Einsatz von Desinformationen und gekauften Demonstranten versuchen, Gesetze zu verhindern, ist unsere Demokratie bedroht source

My translation: When American corporations try to prevent laws with massive misinformation and bought demonstrators, our democracy is in danger.

The German tabloid "Bild" is more specific: Sourced to the head of the CDU/CSU in the European parliament, Daniel Caspary, they claim that demonstrators got up to 450 Euro for participating in demonstrations from a "so called NGO" and that some of the money came from "American internet companies".

This seems like a nonsense conspiracy theory, but given the source, I think it's worth exploring. Is there any evidence that protestors were payed 450 Euro to demonstrate against article 13?

  • 22
    There were 40000 demonstrators in Munich alone. How many of those were paid? How did American companies contact and pay that many (or even a useful portion of that many) without anyone breaking the story before hand?
    – JRE
    Commented Mar 24, 2019 at 9:55
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    An America-investigation will clear up this collusion and foreign interference. Commented Mar 24, 2019 at 10:29
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    @LangLangC: It is significant regardless of how many believe it. This isn't some random schmoe spouting trash. It is a known politician in an important post spouting trash on his party's official twitter feed, and making the same (and more detailed) statement to the press.
    – JRE
    Commented Mar 24, 2019 at 11:53
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    @pmf I haven't seen any, but assuming that there is a massive investment in ads, that would just be a sign for an information campaign. "Desinformationen" would require that the ads contain false or misleading information (which I have thus far only seen from the proponents of the reform).
    – tim
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 10:42
  • 4
    I was there and didn't get paid. I gonna sue them
    – undefined
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 14:43

2 Answers 2


N-TV has a fact check on the issue. Regarding the "so called NGO" and the offer of 450 for demonstrating:

Caspary scheint sich mit seinem Vorwurf auf eine Aktion der Digital-NGO Edri zu beziehen, über die die "Bild am Sonntag" heute folgendes schreibt: "Die internationale Bürgerrechtsorganisation Edri spendierte 'Reisestipendien' nach Brüssel und Straßburg, um den Druck auf die Parlamentarier bei der Abstimmung in direkten Gesprächen zu erhöhen. Für die ausgewählten 20 Aktivisten aus ganz Europa, darunter auch aus Deutschland, gab es bis zu 350 Euro Reisekostenerstattung, zwei Gratis-Übernachtungen sowie Workshops, in denen sie für die Gespräche instruiert wurden." Edri werde unter anderem "von Konzernen wie Twitter und Microsoft" finanziert.

Diese Reisestipendien gab es wirklich, die Kosten für die zwei Übernachtungen gibt Edri mit jeweils 50 Euro an - macht 450 Euro, wie bei Caspary. Das Geld gab es allerdings nicht "für die Demoteilnahme" und schon gar nicht für "gekaufte Demonstranten", sondern für die "Reisekosten von bis zu 350 Euro", um nach Brüssel zu kommen, wie es auf der Seite der Organisation heißt. Dort sprachen "ungefähr 20 Personen" mit Europaabgeordneten, wie das dänische Edri-Mitglied Jesper Lund auf Twitter auf Anfrage des ARD-Journalisten Dennis Horn erklärte.

Summarized, this says that the NGO "Edri" - financed among other by Twitter and Microsoft - reimbursed 20 activists for travel (350 Euro) and lodging (2x 50 Euros) to Brussels (450 Euro total, which matches the 450 Euro in the original claim) to talk with representatives.

The money was not for participating in demonstrations in Germany or elsewhere.

Now, it could of course be that there were also 450 offered to people to demonstrate in Germany, but I have found no evidence for that; it's fair to assume that Caspary misrepresented the issue.

  • 23
    As this money was not for demonstrating at all, not 'massive', neither in sum nor in number of beneficiaries, then what is the disinformation? This is quite weak language for calling out a blatant liar. Commented Mar 24, 2019 at 13:46
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    Plus, his own party colleagues call his statement "insane": twitter.com/tj_tweets/status/1109486854687084544 Commented Mar 24, 2019 at 17:00
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    @LangLangC Remaining calm and choosing neutral language while maintaining the possibility of being wrong and/or missing some misunderstanding of the original source text is admirable, to be celebrated, and to be encouraged. Not derided. Commented Mar 24, 2019 at 20:32
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit I agree in principle but a false equidistant language is misrepresenting the issue as well. It is inappropriate for a case of an anti-democratic habitual 'misrepresenter' and thus liar. Why not call a duck a duck? He did this with TTIP & CETA, doubles down on this new claim with further ridiculousness: twitter.com/caspary/status/1109775776709312512 But political discussion about Caspary will be as fruitless as with him. This is about clear language. Only if the glove doesn't fit you must acquit. This glove is his. Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 11:00
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    @LangLangC Using emotional language like "anti-democratic habitual 'misrepresenter' and thus liar" does not support your case, it only throws your perspective into doubt, whether you are objectively correct or not. Don't confuse "clear" with "bold". Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 12:20

The claimant now says his own twitter account misrepresents the issue. The truth, according to Caspary, is found in Bild.

Framed with "are demonstrators bought?", quoted by the tabloid Bild, Caspary said a slight variation of his own twitter claim:

Nun wird offensichtlich versucht, auch mit gekauften Demonstranten die Verabschiedung des Urheberrechts zu verhindern. Bis zu 450 Euro werden von einer sogenannten NGO für die Demoteilnahme geboten. Das Geld scheint zumindest teilweise von großen amerikanischen Internetkonzernen zu stammen. Wenn amerikanische Konzerne mit massivem Einsatz von Desinformationen und gekauften Demonstranten versuchen, Gesetze zu verhindern, ist unsere Demokratie bedroht.

Now it is obvious that attempts are being made to prevent the adoption of copyright even with demonstrators who have been bought. Up to 450 euros are offered by a so-called NGO for participating in the demonstration. The money seems to come at least partly from big American internet companies. When American corporations try to prevent laws by massively using disinformation and bought demonstrators, our democracy is threatened.

To this and the twitter claim, members of his own party engage in damage control and evaluate that statement:

The Social-Media-Team of @CDU_CSU_EP unfortunately stands for repeated showing of complete ignorance. You only have to look at one or the other tweet. That damages @CDU and @CSU massively. (Matthias Hauer)

I can't find any words for this insanity. No matter what opinion you have, you must always have respect for the opinions of people who think differently. @caspary @AxelVossMdEP (Thomas Jarzombek)

Again, Caspary, commenting on "fake news", went on record with:

"For us MEPs, this means being even more present than before, making connections transparent to the citizens and clearly naming fake news as such," said the CDU politician with a view to the consequences for the election campaign. (NOZ, 01.08.2018, 14:26 Uhr: CDU-Politiker Caspary: Fake News sind Gefahr für Europawahl)

Now not only his colleagues try to bury that or apologize, he himself says that original claim is "I never said that *all demonstrators were bought!"

To make one thing clear: I never said all demonstrators were bought. My statement can be found here: (link back to the original Bild-tabloid article above)

And later:

However, when organisations try to influence public opinion through dubious methods such as "financial support", they can also be criticised. (twitter: Caspary)

To which the first reaction was

"I ever said that" own party writes exactly that in their tweet. What is all this about? Who is lying now, you or your party :)? Serious question. One is lying. (twitter: Pandorya)

Take a really close look at the exact language this MEP uses. "The adoption of copyright" – as if the Eu is currently free from copyright? You may also find delight in hearing him repeat the nonsensical statements (the plural has to be used for the numerous inaccuracies and falsehoods accumulated in such a short statement) for at least a third time. In parliament:


By now we have to assume that he had the chance to fully know just how wrong that all he said is. Even when told in person he cannot accept reality.

It should be obvious that that what he "never said" he now said again, and again. What looks like his denial is a double down and triple down.

Asked for evidence he cannot provide any and chooses the whataboutism of the chewbacca defense while screaming.

That reads pretty much as answering the original question here:

Q Did US corporations pay demonstrators in the German demonstrations against article 13?

A: No. The original claimant tries to weasel himself out of that claim. At least this is indirect admitting that the claim is just untrue.

An organisation called EDRi organised an offer for 20 people of travel reimbursements to Brussels, to talk directly to MEPs. Of these 20 * 450 EUR, the money came from:

Yes. The travel support was administered by @edri (up to 350€ for travel and 100€ for accommodation = up to €450). Source of funding: 2/3 from OSF grant and 1/3 from C4C annual budget. Read more here: EDRi (twitter: Jasper Lund)

The money wasn't for any demonstrations, and not in Germany (although that part is indeed only read into Caspary's nonsense). The money was not 'massive' either, neither in sum nor in number of beneficiaries. For the record: Of the twenty seats offered only 12 were taken.

This should make clear who is spreading disinformation.

  • 1
    This sounds like a denial of something nobody ever claimed. I think we all understand that he didn't claim that all demonstrators were bought, but that a "so called NGO" offered 450 for participating in the demonstrations (with an implication that a non-negligible amount of people accepted this offer); so to me it seems that he stands by what he said, so I'm not sure that this answers the question.
    – tim
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 16:06
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    @Tim Yep. He tries to stand without legs. Things is: it's his denial! And an overly specific one I might add. He tries to have his cake and eat it too. Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 16:09
  • 20 out 40,000+ sounds pretty "neglible" to me. That's a half of a thousandth percent at most. Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 16:53
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    @ChrisPratt Correct. Plus the total sum of demonstrators is much higher. But I am really waiting for someone else, to compare that to the vast amounts of money all those lobbyist orgs spew out. Orgs with practices that Caspary himself calls "threatening"–– in which Caspary, Brok and Voss are/were members themselves (and now guess how they align to the current issue). Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 16:58
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    @ChrisPratt especially given that the pro-Article-13 lobby just invited a boatload of MEPs to a fancy dinner yesterday (the day before the vote), but that is definitely not a problem.
    – Hobbamok
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 9:21

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