Friday

15th Nov 2019

Far-right Facebook networks removed before Spain election

  • Facebook removed three far-right networks in Spain (Photo: Eduardo Woo)

Three far-right Facebook networks in Spain were removed earlier this week following a months-long investigation by Avaaz, a global activist NGO.

Unidad Nacional Espanola (Spanish National Unity), Todos contra Podemos (Everyone against Podemos) and Lucha por Espana (Fight for Spain), had created multiple and duplicate accounts whose pages peddled messages against Muslims, the LGBTI community, immigrants, and women.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Christoph Schott, Avaaz campaign director, told this website on Wednesday (24 April), that the exploitation of Facebook by individuals behind such networks is posing a threat to democracy.

"The system is being gamed in a way where hate can go viral, like using duplicate accounts, fake accounts, and then pretend that those ideas are super supported," he said.

The three networks had over 1.4m followers, more than any of the Spanish party leaders ahead of the general election this weekend. They also counted some 7.4m interactions in the past three months alone, posing questions on how easy it is for people to skew public opinion.

The take downs come at a sensitive time in Spain given the general elections on Sunday (28 April).

Unidad Nacional Espanola alone had attracted some one million followers and was created and coordinated by Javier Capdevila Grau, a far-right activist based near Barcelona.

Grau told Spanish newspaper El Pais that he was being censured for his views because of his possible influence on the elections.

Avaaz also says an Antonio Leal Felix Aguilar was behind Todos contra Podemos.

The two networks were managed by multiple accounts, in breach of Facebook's own rules.

Some had been up and running for years and include page names like Ejercito espanol (Spanish army) and Barcelona se queda en Espana (Barcelona stays in Spain).

Aside from hate, Avaaz says the groups had also spread false and misleading information, including doctored images of Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias doing the Nazi salute.

Avaaz handed over their findings to Facebook in a 60-page report on 12 April.

Facebook then removed the networks on the 23 April, the same day the European Commission released its monthly report on how social media is tackling online disinformation.

Facebook not doing enough

But Schott says Facebook shouldn't be relying on Avaaz or others to bring forward such material.

"They should have found all this stuff and taken action and not having someone like us finding it," he said.

He said Avaaz are currently making other Facebook probes in France, Italy, and Poland. They may also launch an investigation in Hungary, he said.

The European Commission has similar concerns on the role of social media when it comes to the spread of fake news.

On Tuesday, it said Google, Facebook and Twitter are not fully meeting their voluntary commitments to tackle disinformation.

The three giants had last October vowed to prevent the spread of fake news via a code of conduct amid threats by the commission to impose binding regulations.

But critics like the Brussels-based NGO, European Digital Rights (EDRi), say the social media giants are doomed to fail in their efforts given their profit-driven motives, opacity and lack of oversight.

"Facebook, the company that is involved in a ridiculously long list of scandals, should not be praised and put in the driving seat to regulate our free speech," said EDRi, in a tweet.

EU want Facebook pan-EU advert fix for May elections

EU institutions want Facebook to relax its rules, to allow pan-European political groups to carry out EU-wide campaigns. Facebook has yet to implement the demands - posing questions on the extent to which Europe relies on the US tech firm.

British MPs condemn Facebook CEO's misrule

Cambridge Analytica scandal exposed "profound failure of governance within Facebook", British MPs said, while blaming Zuckerberg for his contempt for democratic scrutiny.

Agenda

Spanish vote and EU court's Airbnb ruling in focus This WEEK

Spanish voters are heading to the polls, while in other EU member states campaigning for the European elections is picking up after Easter. The EU's top court will issue important rulings on both the EU-Canada free trade agreement and Airbnb.

News in Brief

  1. Catalan politicians extradition hearing postponed
  2. Germany: EU banking union deal possible in December
  3. EIB: no more funding of fossil-fuel projects
  4. UK defence chief: Russia could trigger World War III
  5. Hungary's Varhelyi will face more questions
  6. Police put former Berlusconi MEP Comi under house arrest
  7. MEPs criticise Poland for criminalising sex education
  8. UK will not name new commissioner before election

Parliament outmanoeuvred in EU top-post game

The European Parliament on Tuesday lost a years-long power struggle, and gave up winning more influence on European politics via the so-called Spitzenkandidat process it had championed.

Who is the new EU parliament president, David Sassoli?

The 63-year-old centre-left Italian MEP was elected president of the European Parliament, with 345 votes. A former journalist, Sassoli has experience as a vice-president of the parliament, but is little known.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. Key moments for new commission This WEEK
  2. EU threatens legal action against UK over commissioner
  3. Corruption in the Balkans: the elephant in the room
  4. Green MEPs unconvinced by Romanian commissioner
  5. EU states fell short on sharing refugees, say auditors
  6. Hungary's commissioner-to-be grilled over loyalty to Orban
  7. Widow's plea as EU diplomats debate Magnitsky Act
  8. Leftist MEPs call on EU to address crisis in Chile

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us