Cata­lan drama a breed­ing ground for ‘fake news’

The Herald (South Africa) - - WORLD - Pa­trick Ga­ley and Mar­i­anne Bar­ri­aux

FOOTAGE from a five-year-old min­ers’ strike, a paral­ysed young boy and wo­man’s bro­ken fin­gers: im­ages swarm­ing Spanish so­cial me­dia dur­ing the Cat­alo­nia in­de­pen­dence cri­sis have one thing in com­mon. They all are fake news. Mis­lead­ing news re­ports, of­ten about vi­o­lence in­volv­ing po­lice, and par­ti­san me­dia cov­er­age have fu­elled ten­sions as each side seeks to in­flu­ence the out­come of Spain’s toxic po­lit­i­cal cri­sis.

One photo of a wo­man whose fin­gers were al­legedly bro­ken by po­lice to stop her from vot­ing dur­ing a banned in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum in Cat­alo­nia on Oc­to­ber 1 was widely dis­trib­uted on so­cial me­dia.

She later told Cata­lan tele­vi­sion that doc­tors had only di­ag­nosed swollen car­ti­lage in her hand.

Other widely cir­cu­lated re­ports said that a po­lice­man sent to Cat­alo­nia to block the plebiscite had died while on as­sign­ment, and that a sixyear-old boy had been paral­ysed by po­lice bru­tal­ity. All were false.

“We have never seen this in Spain un­til now,” Clara Jimenez, a jour­nal­ist in charge of a pop­u­lar Twit­ter ac­count called Maldito Bulo, or “Damned Hoax”, which ver­i­fies sto­ries that cir­cu­late on­line, said.

She said the flood of fake sto­ries had started a few days be­fore the ref­er­en­dum, which had been marred by po­lice vi­o­lence.

The bo­gus re­ports, shared widely on­line, form part of the global phe­nom­e­non of “fake news”, with Rus­sia in par­tic­u­lar be­ing blamed for spread­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion in a bid to in­flu­ence pol­i­tics.

Cat­alo­nia’s sep­a­ratist govern­ment went ahead with the Oc­to­ber 1 vote even though a judge had or­dered po­lice to close polling sta­tions and seize bal­lot boxes to stop it from hap­pen­ing.

Im­ages of in­jured vot­ers, real and fake, then cir­cu­lated around the world.

The emo­tional de­bate over Cat­alo­nia’s push to split from Spain, which has deeply di­vided the coun­try and the re­gion it­self, was the per­fect breed­ing ground for fake news, Jimenez said.

“Peo­ple see what they want to see and they be­lieve it. They don’t doubt it be­cause feel­ings are in­volved.”

The Cata­lan govern­ment said nearly 900 peo­ple had re­ceived med­i­cal at­ten­tion on the day of the ref­er­en­dum.

This fig­ure was trans­lated by some Cata­lan sep­a­ratists into nearly 900 in­jured.

The po­lice crack­down against the ref­er­en­dum has also been cov­ered rad­i­cally dif­fer­ently by Spanish state tele­vi­sion and Cat­alo­nia re­gional TV.

On Oc­to­ber 1, TV3, which de­pends on the Cata­lan govern­ment, showed Spanish govern­ment of­fi­cials hail­ing the pro­fes­sion­al­ism of se­cu­rity forces -fol­lowed by im­ages of po­lice beat­ing would-be vot­ers.

On Spanish pub­lic tele­vi­sion TVE, the im­ages of po­lice vi­o­lence did not make the nightly news. – AFP

Peo­ple see what they want to see and they be­lieve it

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.