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Spain prosecutes and sentences its first case under online “fake news” law

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A man in Spain has been fined and given a suspended prison sentence for spreading fake news on Twitter. He posted a video of a man assaulting a woman and falsely claimed that the assault took place in a town in the state of Catalonia and that the attacker was a migrant. The assault actually took place in China.

The video was recorded in China and published by authorities to help catch the perpetrator in June 2019.

The man, identified as JM, is a member of Spain’s Guardia Civil police. He admitted his crimes and was given a suspended prison sentence and a €1620 fine ($1,629.) He is the first person in Spain to be convicted for spreading fake news.

He captioned the video posted in July this year, “Here you have the video of the Moroccan MENA (unaccompanied foreign minor) in Canet de Mar, it’s these people who we’ll pay benefits to until they are 23.”

The court said he shared the video, which had 22,000 views, with “manifest disregard for the truth” to “globally and unfairly defame unaccompanied children from other countries” so that they were associated with violent attacks and sexual assaults.

The court added that postings like JM’s “increase prejudices and stereotypes of this especially vulnerable group among the general population.”

The conditions of his sentence include attending a course on equality and the closing of his social media accounts.

The court said the man’s online profile also had symbols associated with neo-Nazi groups and slogans used by the American racist group, the Klu Klux Klan.

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