Teams of technology sleuths have detected a pattern of right-wing participation in online campaigns using doctored photos, phony videos and false claims to attack and undermine support for Spain’s progressive coalition government over its handling of the coronavirus crisis.
Analyzing social media activity and thousands of accounts linked to right-wing political figures, tech investigators at Barcelona’s Heurística labs and several fact-checking websites have found a definite pattern in the dissemination of social-media images and videos making false claims about the government’s handling of the crisis.
All have in common the notion that the government is hiding information and lying to the public about the supposedly vastly greater number of deaths and rate of contagion in Spain, that the government is actively promoting the deaths of the elderly or that the government is purposely denying protective equipment to doctors, nurses and hospital staff across Spain.
Many of the bulos or “hoaxes” are being promulgated by a network that appears to involve thousands of false repeater “bot” accounts and include images clearly intend to lay the blame for the spread of the virus on government ministers and their supposedly lenient progressive tendencies.
According to the researchers, the right-wing network of social media accounts has been involved both in disseminating the call for Spaniards to protest the government’s handling of the crisis with cacerolada protests, banging pots and pans on balconies every Wednesday at 9pm, as well as a current push for the public to tune-in to a much-touted online “digital demonstration” being prepared by “people who are telling you the truth, as they (the government) lie to you.”
So widespread is the campaign that attorneys for United Podemos have filed a claim with the Fiscalia General Attorney General’s office calling for an immediate investigation and demanding that prosecutors within the Attorney General’s office file charges against those responsible for the crimes of “simulation of danger, slander and insults to high institutions of the State, and criminal association.”
“We are undoubtedly facing an organized structure whose sole purpose is to willfully spread serious falsehoods and lies that seek to cause social alarm, destabilize the political situation and weaken the actions of state institutions, in other words, to harm Spanish society, its institutions and everyone who resides n our country,” the Unidas Podemos attorneys said.
According to the National Police, more than 1.5 million false social media accounts spreading fake news about the coronavirus crisis have been detected since the state of alarm was decreed by the government on 14th March.
On Monday, National Police Deputy Director General for Logistics and Innovation José García Molina, confirmed at a press conference that the detected social media accounts, especially those on Twitter, have sought to create alarm among the population and pose an especially serious risk at a time of national emergency during the coronavirus pandemic.
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