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Czech Police charge dozens of online haters for attacking medical workers as Facebook blocks French and Italian accounts campaigning against vaccination with violence

7.12.2021 17:30
Right-wing extremists in the Czech Republic attacked police officers on 18 October 2020 after the official dissolving of a protest by those opposed to the Government's measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. (PHOTO:  Petr Zewlakk Vrabec)
Right-wing extremists in the Czech Republic attacked police officers on 18 October 2020 after the official dissolving of a protest by those opposed to the Government's measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. (PHOTO: Petr Zewlakk Vrabec)

The Meta company, operator of the Facebook social media site, has blocked the accounts of persons purporting to be opposed to the vaccine against COVID-19 in France and Italy because such users of their service have been coordinating a campaign to threaten doctors, journalists and politicians who support vaccination with violence. The Czech Police have also begun monitoring cyberspace and are prosecuting several dozen people for the content of their online posts against medical workers.  

Mike Dvilyanski, head of the Threat Investigation Department at Facebook, said today at a press conference that users of the service in France and Italy have been "Insulting doctors, journalists, lawmakers, calling them Nazis for supporting the vaccine against COVID-19 and alleging that compulsory vaccination will lead to a dictatorship of medicine." According to him, the campaign was coordinated and those involved consulted each other using the Telegram mobile phone app to recruit new participants and share the list of persons to target.   

The campaign of intimidation, according to Meta, was connected to the conspiracy movement V_V, the adherents of which have flooded Twitter, the Russian social media site VKontakte, YouTube and others with tens of thousands of comments and discussion points on ths issue. According to the analytics firm Graphika, fans of the V_V movement have also contributed to disrupting campaigns promoting vaccinations, overwhelming registration systems by repeatedly making appointments and then cancelling them.

Last month, for example, the Italian Police conducted house searches in different cities nationwide related to 20 radical opponents of vaccination against COVID-19 who, according to police, have allegedly incited violence, including with the use of weapons, against Government officials, physicians or the press who support pandemic-related restrictions. Italiam Prime Minister Mario Draghi was also targeted with threats from such extremists.

Ahead of their raid, the Italian Police monitored chats on the Telegram application under the "Basta Dittatura" (Down with Dictatorship) thread for several weeks. The Czech Police have also begun concentrating on aggressive attacks online and speech towards authorities from the field of health care, constitutional officers and medical personnel. 

Czech Police said they have apprehended the alleged perpetrators of four out of five such attacks that have been publicized in the Czech media in recent days and are conducting criminal proceedings against them. Special teams of detectives are also continuing to monitor cyberspace and are already prosecuting dozens of such "heroes of the Internet" who face up to three years behind bars for making dangerous threats. 

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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COVID-19, death threats, Extremism, Hate



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