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Fraud, fakes and photoshops.... the online war over the Catalan referendum

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Fraud, fakes and photoshops.... the online war over the Catalan referendum

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Among the massive amount of information circulating during the Catalan Independence Referendum celebrations, declared illegal by the Constitutional Court, there was space for the circulation of questionable information, manipulated or fake photos, and videos that have created a lot of buzz.

Early in the morning, people went to cast their vote in ballot boxes which were camouflaged and being transported in private vehicles to avoid being confiscated by the police.

The Spanish broadcasters, Telecinco and TVE were among the news organizations to point out that one ballot box with voting papers inside was being transported before the opening of the polling station, putting into question the credibility of the vote.

However, it is unknown whether the voting papers were marked with a YES or a NO. According to these media outlets, the images dated from the beginning of the day before the electoral college opened.

They were highlighted by former deputy Rosa Diez.



But, it is important to note that the light in this video suggests it was taken later in the day since sunrise in Barcelona took place at 7:50 on October 1. At this time, the ballot boxes were already, in principle, inside the electoral colleges.

Additionally, the ballot box in the video does not have the red plastic seals used to guarantee that the boxes would not be opened during voting. Some users suggest that the video’s ballot box was used to transport virgin voting papers as part of the complicated voting procedure.

We haven’t been able to obtain more information on what happened in that particular situation.

However, some colleges had to move the ballot boxes to avoid having them confiscated by the police in the middle of the voting day.

Other questionable content, such as videos of people voting in groups without showing any identification and some casting votes several times, has also been circulating on social media.



One such picture shows a Madrid local who voted NO without proving that he was registered to vote in Catalonia.


The polemic also includes fake images like the one below, which shows the Mossos de’ Esquadra (the Catalan police force) confronting firefighters.


The picture dates from the 2013 protests.


Catalan firefighters did however protect voters from police action.


Another example of misinformation was the second version of a picture showing a crowd holding a Catalan flag, which according to the Twitter account Maldito Bulo is fake.


People who suffered injuries as a result of altercations with the police were also protagonists in the controversy. A picture of a woman hit by the police that day is now being questioned for its veracity.


But there appears to be little doubt that the woman was in fact hurt according to various images and testimonies backing the aggression.



However, there are pictures of other protests being shared as if they were taken the day of the referendum. The debunk below was also done by the Maldito Bulo Twitter account.


Spain’s Policia Nacional (National Police), who was also the object of some fake claims, warned that it was important to verify information before sharing it on social media.