Wednesday, October 5

Leopoldo López in Madrid: from battering ram against Chávez and Maduro to vigilante against ‘fake news’

Mayor of Chacao (Venezuela) under 30 years old, convicted of participating in the attempted coup against Hugo Chávez in 2002, amnestied, re-convicted for instigating the 2014 protests against Nicolás Maduro that resulted in dozens of deaths – he has denied his involvement-, imprisoned, released and today exiled, Leopoldo López continues to be one of the most belligerent opponents of what he calls the “dictatorship” and “autocracy” of his country. This Tuesday, in a meeting at the Ateneo de Madrid to discuss ‘Disinformation and the threat to democracy’, the politician, who is now trying to weave an international network of support for persecuted figures, has included Venezuela in a list of countries disinformation disseminators, in which Russia, China or Iran also participate.

The debate, moderated by the president of the Athenaeum, Luis Arroyo, brought López together with two visitors linked to the European delegation of the foundation of former United States president Barack Obama. On one side, Chris Simon, presented as a disinformation specialist. On the other, Sahra-Josephine Hjorth, founder of a digital training platform and one of the participants this year in the “leadership program” of the foundation in the old continent. There they discussed the phenomenon of fake news or fake news and its explosion due to the digital revolution, without reaching definitive conclusions.

“Some type of regulation will be necessary”, Simon opined about the management of content in the large social networks, with the case of Facebook in the background, which could be self-regulation or legislative intervention, perhaps transnational. It is also necessary, according to Hjorth, an education of young people in “digital ethics”, which limits bullying and other abusive behavior on social networks. There are no obvious solutions, she cautioned, citing as an example the absence of the far right from the traditional media in Sweden, which has not prevented its electoral rise.

López recalled that repressive political regimes managed to digest the first emergence of social networks as alternative information media and now have tools to stifle critical speech, such as armies of paid collaborators. He also pointed out that in Venezuela there are news portals that, in order to access, it is necessary to use programs that circumvent the blockade imposed by the government, in a similar way, although for more perverse reasons, it is understood, to the difficulties in accessing the official Russian media. from the European Union in recent months.

example of the international trolls, from Havana to Tehran, are, in his opinion, the “clear” Russian interference in the public debate in Catalonia in the wake of the 2017 independence referendum, or the consultation on the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU the previous year . Outside democracies, those problems are the same, but with greater intensity, he defended. Asked how to tolerate the pressure in the networks, he defended that one must try to “be honest with oneself” and not let the attacks destroy self-esteem and retract opponents from participating in public forums. He also drew attention to the number of political prisoners in the world, “a pandemic”, in his opinion, that occurs in many countries. Here he expanded the list: Hong Kong, Zimbabwe, Turkey and Saudi Arabia also suffer from serious problems.

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