Spanish Government Moves Ahead With First 'Fake News' Prosecution

from the minimum-six-months-for-being-wrong-about-stuff dept

In 2018, the Spanish government amended its Data Protection Law to align it with European regulations like GDPR. While doing so, it slipped in an amendment that targeted “fake news,” adding to an already-problematic law that enshrined the “right to be forgotten” and mandated personal data deletion after a certain period of time.

The amendment made the bizarre assertion that the existence of fake news somehow harmed Spanish citizens’ free speech rights.

The text of the amendment proposes making administrators of social media, digital platforms and similar services the guarantors of truthful information. To this end, “effective protocols” should be adopted to, if necessary, “eliminate content that violates the constitutional right to freely communicate or receive truthful information through any means of communication.”

The government could have limited itself to fighting questionable speech with less-questionable speech. In fact, it did do this. It hired fact checkers to debunk misinformation being spread on social media ahead of the 2019 elections. The fact-checkers performed real-time debunkings to slow the dissemination of misinformation by political groups and their allies.

Spain elected a new government last Sunday. But, on Saturday, the day when the law forbids campaigns and candidates asking for votes, social media (especially WhatsApp and Facebook) was completely flooded by misinformation.

Newtral and Maldito Bulo, the two verified members of the International Fact-checking Network, were there to work hard.

On the last week of the campaign, they both live fact-checked two TV debates in a row — each one of them with four candidates.

But that’s not all the government did. It sent the cops out to literally police speech.

A team of more than 100 Spanish police officers will trawl the internet for signs of fake news and cyber attacks in the build-up to next month’s snap election, the interior ministry said on Friday.

Officials will keep a particularly close eye on Facebook, its WhatsApp messaging app, Twitter and other social media networks under a security plan to protect the vote, the ministry added.

It’s unclear what the punishment is for spreading fake news. The law provides for a jail sentence of up to two years for violators, but that’s tied to the publication of information that “compromises the dignity” of a protected group. It doesn’t say anything specifically about fake news.

All that seems to be clear at this point is that the “effective protocols” involve government prosecutors. Fake news has been addressed successfully by government fact checkers but now this same government has decided to punish someone for saying the wrong things online.

Spanish public prosecutors said Friday they have filed the country’s first lawsuit against the spread of ‘fake news” which targets a woman who tweeted a video falsely claiming to show migrant children harassing a teacher in Spain.

The video, which shows several students overturning desks and insulting a teacher, was in fact filmed in May at a school in Brazil in Sao Paulo state, AFP’s fact-checking team established in September.

Since the government has already publicly denounced the posting as fake and published information about its true origin, it’s unclear why it felt the need to move forward with a lawsuit against the person posting it. But it’s doing it anyway. Right now, only a judge stands between the Spanish government and its first fake news prosecution.

A judge at a court in Sant Feliu de Llobregat near Barcelona will now have to decide whether or not to accept the lawsuit. Public prosecutors can appeal if the judge decides against hearing the case.

It seems like the same goal could be achieved with the public debunking that has already happened, which amply demonstrated this person isn’t a trustworthy source of information. This prosecution needlessly adds injury to insult. Spanish citizens are going to engage in a lot more self-censorship if they believe they might be prosecuted simply for being wrong. And they’ll engage in ever more self-censorship if they think anything they say might be perceived as “humiliating” to a protected group.

Filed Under: , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Spanish Government Moves Ahead With First 'Fake News' Prosecution”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment

Re: Lies, damned lies and statistics

Problem ISNT the lying.
Its getting them to ADMIT IT IN PUBLIC..

Get the A$$hats to stand up in front of everyone and Admit, in a Clear fashion, that they did it on Purpose or mistake or it was sent to them as BS.. And they believed it was true so they published it.

Admit they are/were STUPID..


This isn’t solved with punishing fake news, but rather, by having reliable information sources.

That is, what journalists should be and they aren’t, as they are told by their overlords (AKA those who pay them) what to write about and how.

Fake news? What do you do when your journalists are as reliable and truthful as a blog or twitter? And that’s being generous with them.

The moment journalists stop telling people what to think and they just give them the information to do the thinking by themselves, then we start talking.

Anyway, this legislation is a bad idea and will probably get challenged in court if not declared straight unconstitutional. The ECHR and Constitutional Court in Spain have been quite harsh with a few freedom of speech incidents like:

  • Willy Toledo case being sued for shitting God (it’s in our penal code).
  • Cesar Strawberry case.
  • An incident related to burning the King’s pictures.
    So, even if the government comes with this shit, I’m pretty sure it won’t go too far either way.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Older Stuff
15:51 [UPDATED]: Myanmar's Military Junta Sentences American Journalist To Eleven Years In Prison (8)
12:01 Hong Kong Government Now Directly Censoring Films In Hopes Of Shutting Down Protest-Related Documentaries (21)
10:50 Fifth Circuit Appeals Court Strips Immunity For Officers Who Arrested A Journalist For Asking Questions (16)
10:44 Why Falsely Claiming It's Illegal To Shout Fire In A Crowded Theater Distorts Any Conversation About Online Speech (85)
05:36 Massachusetts College Decides Criticizing The Chinese Government Is Hate Speech, Suspends Conservative Student Group (144)
16:07 Court Says City Of Baltimore's 'Heckler's Veto' Of An Anti-Catholic Rally Violates The First Amendment (28)
12:19 Chicago Court Gets Its Prior Restraint On, Tells Police Union Head To STFU About City's Vaccine Mandate (385)
11:03 LinkedIn (Mostly) Exits China, Citing Escalating Demands For Censorship (24)
12:10 Court Tells Arkansas Troopers That Muting Anti-Cop Terms On Its Facebook Page Violates The 1st Amendment (37)
13:43 Right-Wing Commentator Dan Bongino Runs Into Florida Anti-SLAPP Law, Now Owes Daily Beast $32,000 In Legal Fees (14)
20:41 North Carolina Sued By Flying Dog Brewery Over Regulatory Body Refusing To Allow Sales Due To 'Offensive' Label (19)
09:59 Now Josh Hawley Is Threatening Google Over 1st Amendment Protected Expression (44)
12:08 PETA Sues NIH And HHS Directors For Blocking Comments With 'PETA' And '#StopAnimalTesting' (59)
10:57 Appeals Court Says The First Amendment Protects Minnesota Woman's Right To Be Super-Shitty About Nearby Islamic School (68)
12:00 Elizabeth Warren Threatens Amazon For Selling Books Containing Misinformation; Perhaps Forgetting The 1st Amendment (49)
09:26 8th Circuit's Bizarre Ruling In Devin Nunes' SLAPP Suit Against Reporter Ryan Lizza (13)
10:43 Satire Site Gets Ridiculous Threat Letter From Baseball Team; cc's Barbra Streisand In Its Response (20)
12:12 Commentator Insists That Fact Checking Is An Attack On Free Speech (163)
13:34 Court: Just Because An Anonymous Yelp Reviewer Is Mean, Doesn't Mean You Get To Unmask The Reviewer (26)
12:06 Computer Repair Shop Owner Has To Pay Twitter's Legal Fees Over Bogus SLAPP Suit Regarding Hunter Biden's Laptop (108)
13:36 Report Shows DOJ Engaged In Selective Prosecution To Maximize Punishment For 'Black Lives Matter' Protesters (22)
16:02 Appeals Court Shuts Down Kansas' 30-Year-Old Ag Gag Law (23)
13:39 Ninth Circuit Affirms MSNBC's Anti-SLAPP Motion Against OAN Network's Bullshit Defamation Lawsuit (102)
10:51 Appeals Court Says Iowa's Ag-Gag Law Is About 50 Percent Constitutional (15)
13:45 Nassau County Executive Vetoes Bill That Would Punish People For Making Cops Feel Bad (15)
12:24 Shiva Ayyadurai Drops His Potentially Interesting Lawsuit About Massachusetts Officials Complaining To Twitter About Tweets (33)
12:03 President Of France Sues Citizen Over Billboard Comparing Macron To Hitler (20)
10:44 Top German Court Says Facebook Must Inform Users About Deleting Their Posts Or Suspending Their Account, Explain Why, And Allow Them To Respond (17)
10:44 Superior Court Dumps BS Charges Brought Against New Jersey Homeowner For Her 'Fuck Biden' Signs (20)
03:27 Appeals Court Denies Immunity To University Officials Who Apparently Banned A Christian Student Group Just Because They Didn't Like It (33)
More arrow
This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it