Sunday, April 2

Barcelona City Council denounces a police officer and a civil guard for spreading a xenophobic hoax

Barcelona City Council has brought four Twitter users, including a police officer and a civil guard, before the Prosecutor for spreading a xenophobic hoax about the false registration of 1,600 Moroccan citizens in the city to receive social benefits. The consistory considers the dissemination of false news as a crime of incitement to hatred.

The denounced case is not the first xenophobic ‘fake news’ that reaches the Justice. Last November, a civil guard accepted fifteen months in prison for posting on Twitter a false video that attributed an unaccompanied immigrant minor to being the author of an attack in Barcelona that had actually happened in China.

According to the complaint from the City Council’s anti-discrimination office, to which has had access, the false message “represents an incitement to hatred, resentment and animosity towards the Maghreb community due to their origin, attributing direct and massive commission of a fraud that affects the whole of the citizenry”.

The false message denounced by the consistory, disseminated both in Catalan and Spanish through WhatsApp as well as on social networks, begins by announcing a “new scandal involving the mayoress of Barcelona and her government team.” It’s actually ‘fake news’, not a scandal.

The message continues, explaining that “a few days ago” the Civil Guard entered a flat in a Barcelona neighborhood because it contained 1,600 registered residents despite the fact that only five lived there. Immediately afterwards, the viral message launches a xenophobic attack by assuring that 1,595 of the 1,600 registered in Barcelona “live in Morocco but receive all the aid that the City Council gives and can vote by mail.”

“If Colau wins the next municipal elections, he will be able to start thinking about where the votes come from,” adds the message, which, in addition to the traditional xenophobic diatribe about the aid received by migrants (without taking into account that, if they receive it, they do so because of his low level of income and not because of his origin), he introduces a non-existent electoral link with the mayoress just over two months before the elections.

The Barcelona Citizen Rights Councilor, Marc Serra, frames the false message in “a global and organized disinformation strategy that has reached Barcelona.”

According to the complaint, this connection with the vote for Colau supposes an “undoubted slanderous content” towards the mayoress. The tweeters who spread the hoax, adds the consistory, “were aware of the absolute falsehood of the message due to its total implausibility”, since it was not accompanied by any news or journalistic reference that would allow it to be attributed a minimum of credibility.

The tweeters who spread the hoax “relied on a harmful and stigmatizing false rumor, that Maghrebis fraudulently register at homes to obtain financial aid,” the complaint notes.

The dissemination of this hoax, argues the City Council, cannot be protected under freedom of expression since it supposes “contempt and humiliation” for the Maghreb community and includes “discriminatory messages and that promote violence” among the group of foreigners .

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