In Italy, the perpetrators spread a movie clip of a car being destroyed and pretended it was news footage of migrants wrecking a police vehicle. In Poland, they disseminated a fake news story about migrant taxi drivers raping European women. In Spain, they shared lies about Catalan separatists shutting down a child cancer center. In the UK, they shared a blog post with a beheading photo and a sensationalist headline, claiming “A Billion Muslims Want Sharia Law.”
These are just a few examples of the ugly far-right propaganda and disinformation that has flooded Facebook ahead of parliamentary elections in the European Union this week. According to a new report by online activist group Avaaz, networks of fake accounts, pages, and groups have been spreading divisive, white-nationalist, anti-immigrant content throughout Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Poland, and Spain. In some cases, they posed as politicians themselves. In others, they created fan pages for political parties or alternative media organizations. Together, they amassed followings several times larger than the actual far-right groups operating within these countries.