Server iROZHLAS.cz hovořil s autorem jednoho z nejvíce šířených dezinformačních textů před druhým kolem prezidentské volby.
- During its presidential election, the Czech Republic experienced the most massive growth in disinformation in its history
- It was primarily about presidential candidate Jiří Drahoš, while winner Miloš Zeman mainly faced insulting collages spread on social networks
- It was mostly older people who forwarded false information by email, and some of these reached tens of thousands of people
- iROZHLAS.cz searched for the authors and distributors of some of these disinformation emails, and they include a doctor, a lawyer, a pensioner and a farmer.
"I just put it there, it came in several times, I chose something and put something there," Svitavy doctor Vítězslav Podivínský says at the entrance to his practice.
He's talking about a 21-page document sent via emails during the presidential election. Podivínský posted it on his website, which is intended for his patients as well. The document focuses on issues such as Islam, refugees and the European Union. "Islam is the most insidious way of thinking in today's world. Every Muslim is a bearer of death," it reads.
I will take care of my family and homeland
Miloš Zeman is presented as a candidate taking a stand against accepting refugees, while Michal Horáček and Jiří Drahoš are pro-refugee candidates. In Drahoš’s case, it points out a call from scientists who refused to spread fear of immigrants. Drahoš signed it, and because of that, opponents of immigration attacked him as a "refugee welcomer," which the candidate repeatedly denied. But Podivínský didn’t believe him. "He signed it, so he agrees with it," he told iROZHLAS.com without the slightest doubt.
He rejects the argument that the call is not an invitation for refugees to come to the Czech Republic. At the same time, he doesn't say why. "I simply won’t agree with things that are being said that bother me. I’ve long resisted the temptation to write something like this, and put it somewhere, but some time ago I decided I’d be an egoist and take care of my family and my country. And I mean it. The disparaging campaign run against Zeman was really hard, and I said to myself, I could help in this way, too," the doctor says.
Sending out a document with disinformation
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Vítězslav Podivínský is one of the people who received false emails during this presidential election and did not hesitate to spread them further. They included claims that Drahoš is a gay pedophile and cooperated with the communist-era secret police, the StB. That he’s a member of the "Masonic" Club of Rome. That if he becomes president, the judiciary will allow children to be sent to be groomed for pedophiles, white slavery traders, prostitutes and to be harvested for their organs.
The Czech Republic has never experienced such a massive increase in disinformation as it did during the recent presidential election. It's not just about false news spread on social networks and published on disinformation servers. Above all, elderly people have forwarded false information among themselves through emails.
The risks related to lies spread by email is confirmed by the latest research by the Center for the Prevention of Risky Virtual Communication at Palacký University in Olomouc and by the Seznam.cz company. The willingness to spread disinformation by email grows with age. "Emails warning against dangers (such as migration or Islam) are spread by 35 percent of people aged 55 to 64, and 47 percent of people over 65. That's four times more than among younger people. True and false news on political affairs is sent by the elderly six times more often than younger people," the report released this week states.
Thirty to one
Disinformation was overwhelmingly about the presidential candidate Jiří Drahoš. "There are also anti-Zeman ones, but the ratio is 30:1," one of the authors of the report, head of the Centre for the Prevention of Risky Virtual Communication, Kamil Kopecký, told iROZHLAS.cz. Against Miloš Zeman, who won the election, there was a photo of First Lady Ivana Zemanová in a hijab, with the caption that she had secretly adopted a Muslim name.
Last November a post appeared on Facebook that President Miloš Zeman had cancer and had a few months left to live. Its author was Svatopluk Bartík, a politician from Brno. Prague Castle denied the report and the president announced that he would sue for an apology and damages worth five million crowns, which he wants to donate to the operation of the Klokánek children’s home.
Translated twitter status: These are nasty lies, and those who spread them are human garbage. A lawsuit and a criminal complaint will be filed against Bartík.
Although it was originally a prank, according to Kopecký, another post stating that Zeman's voters do not have to go to the first round of elections must also be must also be perceived as disinformation. While Zeman faced more photocollages that ridiculed him, Drahoš had to face outright lies.
According to Kopecký, one can only speculate about the sources of the disinformation. Finding their primary sources seems almost impossible, but it is certain that some of them were organized. "There's no way someone could create such complementary information. One writes that Drahoš was in the StB, and the second gives the name of his investigating officer, who actually exists. The third message adds to this information. That just can't happen in isolation. Just the fact that much more misinformation was against Drahoš says that wasn't a random phenomenon," says the head of the Center for the Prevention of Risky Virtual Communication.
iROZHLAS.cz tried to find those who created or spread disinformation during the presidential election. Apart from Dr. Podivinský, there's a lawyer, farmer and pensioner among them. All were given the opportunity to explain why they wrote or disseminated the materials, or to document the sources the information was drawn from.
Podivinský, however, disagrees with the fact that the material he published contains disinformation. "Of course I don't believe that Drahoš is a pedophile, I'm not an idiot. Is that his signature? It is. Then it isn't a disinformation campaign. I know this could look like anything," he says, pointing to a passage addressing the scientists' call. He says he didn't put the material together and didn’t forward it by email. But he doesn't remember who he got it from. "This was sent by someone, but I deleted it right away," the doctor explains.
'It's not just me writing these pages'
In one of the passages in Podivinský's document, there's a reference to the website volbyprezidenta.cz, which is registered in the name of the Prague lawyer Norbert Naxer. In the past, Naxera stood in regional elections in the Pilsen region as the leader of the a coalition led by Miroslav Sládek's Republicans. He was also on the team of the presidential candidate Josef Toman, who claims that 75,000 citizens signed his candidacy petition, but according to the Interior Ministry, only 11 were filed.
Naxera argued that someone stole the petitions to prevent an "inconvenient candidate" from running for the Castle.
But in the case of the disinformation document, the attorney denies creating or spreading it. "I won't tell you exactly, but it's not just me writing on these pages. More people have access. I personally didn't distribute anything. If someone else did, I don't know. It's possible, but I'd have to ask," he says vaguely.
He says he doesn't consult his colleagues about the materials that are published or distributed. "I don't have time for that. If there was something that was really untrue, that would of course bother me. I haven't consciously spread anything that was untrue, and I don't think that there has been anything like that on the site," Naxera says.
But exaggerating Drahoš as a "refugee welcomer" is all right according to him. "That's true. He did say that if he becomes president he would accept 200 thousand of them. I don't precisely remember it, but he said something like that. Even if he denied it several times, I heard it somewhere," Naxera adds when asked about the source.
'Defending the nation from auto-genocidal currents'
The Byzantine Catholic Patriarchate, on the other hand, is the author of two disinformational messages. The Patriarchate was founded in Ukraine by the excommunicated Czech priest Eliáš Antonín Dohnal. These two materials were massively spread by email from the Ukraine. The first was an open letter to Jiří Drahoš.
Disinformation messages distributed
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According to Dohnal, Drahoš, the former head of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, is a leader of "evil and death" and a probable Mason who will have to promote a program of "transnational elites who want to introduce globalization and the so-called New World Order". "This program includes the planned Islamization and destruction of European Christian culture. You make no secret of it and you see good in it!" the open letter states.
The second text is addressed directly to recipients who, according to Dohnal, must choose between life and death. "President Zeman isn’t just raising up the country and gradually getting rid of its slave-like dependencies; he’s also defending the country against auto-genocidal trends," he writes in the letter. It follows that Drahoš, on the other hand, belongs to the trend supporting the "auto-genocide" of humanity.
The power of these two distributed messages is also evidenced by the fact that the archbishop of Olomouc, Jan Graubner, publicly distanced himself from them. “They are not a registered religious organization in the Czech Republic, even though they have tried repeatedly. They’ve recently started calling themselves sectarians. Their many positions cannot be considered the same as the Catholic Church, nor to be humanly mature and rational. The Catholic Church dissociates themselves from their activities,” he wrote to the Byzantine Catholic Patriarchate.
The organization actually refers to itself as a sect. "At the present time, the Byzantine Patriarchate has gone into exile (Prague – Donetsk)," he says in his website's contacts section. iROZHLAS.cz contacted their representative via email. An interview in person, or at least information related to the sending of disinformation messages, was requested. "What are you after and why? Do you want to support the truth and life, or lies and death?" Father Josef wrote in his first reply.
In other emails, patriarchal representatives rejected a meeting in person. "Since you are an expert in revealing criminal cases, as opposed to us, listeners of Czech Radio will therefore welcome it if you explain this serious problem without us. As a specialist in criminal cases, as soon as you shed the light of truth onto this Masonic case, then get in touch with us again. A number of other tasks await you. Honor labor! [A Communist-era greeting]"
'All the fun is over!!!'
Just as with the Byzantine Catholic Patriarchate, another author of a widely-spread disinformation email, Oldřich Lukáš, accused Jiří Drahoš of Islamization. He speaks of himself as an economist, environmentalist and retired teacher. He was motivated to write his text "Thoughts on the presidential election – all the fun is over!!!" by the attacks on President Zeman. In it, he writes that Zeman's opponent supports tough censorship and punishment for spreading the truth.
Hungarian-born American billionaire of Jewish origin. Known, among other things, for financial currency speculation, which, for example, forced the Bank of England to devalue the British pound in 1992; he is nicknamed "The Man Who Broke the Bank of England." Convicted in France of misuse of information in business. In Europe, Soros supports a number of nonprofit activities; he supported the Hillary Clinton campaign in the US. Soros is one of the main topics of disinformation, which claimed during the campaign, for example, that he was behind Jiří Drahoš' candidacy.
"Anyone who has at least one brain cell for thinking will realize that this 'elite', which is supported by Soros' stores of titles and [Czech oligarch Zdeněk] Bakala’s media, is the worst moral sewer of a society full of treachery, corruption, primitive loutishness, insidious insanity and fanatical hatred," it argues.
It also warns that if Drahoš wins the election, schools will be "full of pedophiles, homosexuals and parasitical non-profits Islamizing the brains of our children," that "unimaginable crime, the worst perverts and psychopaths from across Africa and juvenile justice like [Norway's] Barnevernet will be able to steal your children at any moment and give them to pedophiles for 'education,' to white slavery rings for prostitution or to be harvested for their organs."
On the other hand, Miloš Zeman is presented as the only sensible alternative, someone who will keep "Europhiles and agents of world government" in line. "He has brought hundreds of billions from Russian and Chinese investors to the Czech Republic, and he’s sticking it to the EU psychopaths preparing Europe for a perfect suicide." He's a spokesman for ordinary (i.e. honest and hardworking) citizens and a critic of corrupt traitors," Lukáš writes, describing the Czech head of state.
When the Czech Television news program 168 hours asked Lukáš for the sources of information in his document, he claimed that a large part had disappeared due to breakins in his computer. He told iROZHLAS.cz that the document was originally sent to his acquaintances, and that he only heard of its mass spread after the fact. He said he feels no responsibility for sending disinformation. "If I knew that you were going to ask for sources, I would have put them right in there. When you write something for your friends, do you put sources into every sentences? It was my feeling and my opinion. That’s not criminal, and if it is, we’re turning back to the deepest totalitarianism," Lukáš says.
In his words, he can trace all of his information to credible sources, but at the same time he admits he doesn't care. "I don’t care what the source is. I just need the information," Lukáš said, adding that he draws on information from "thousands and thousands of pieces of information from all over Europe." iROZHLAS.cz later received an email in which Lukáš lists the sources he based his document on. Most of it is other disinformation.
The Muslim Brotherhood
Another false email said that Drahoš is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, together with Miroslav Kalousek and Karel Schwarzenberg. "The public budget for the presidential candidacy is around CZK 37 million. The hidden budget for presidential candidacy as of January 10, 2018: CZK 76,346,421. The main donor – the headquarters of the Muslim community of the Czech Republic," the disinformation says. Its full text was published by farmer Stanislav Sekanina from the village of Újezd u Boskovic.
THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD
The radical Islamic movement calls for a return to Islam's roots. Its goal was to unify all Muslim ethnicities into a so-called Organization of Islamic Nations, which would coordinate all political activities. In Egypt, Bahrain and Jordan, the movement is represented in Parliament. In other Arab states, the Brotherhood's activities are among the major opposition groups. Some countries consider it a terrorist organization.
"It came to me from Prague in an email, so I just forwarded it and I put it to up on my Facebook profile. I get a lot of these things," Sekanina admits. He made no effort to verify the information, but nevertheless doesn't doubt its veracity. "If it was written there, someone probably knows," he says, convinced.
According to Sekanina, the Muslim community in the Czech Republic would have no problem raising CZK 80 million for Drahoš’ campaign. "Bakala gave it to them. It's all the same. There's a ton of these thieves who have stolen from us," Sekanina says, countering the questions. He says he doesn't believe all the emails that rolled in during the presidential election. "But there's a kernel of truth in every statement. These people wouldn’t think up anything wrong," the farmer says in defence of the false messages.
People also forwarded in large numbers articles by the pro-Zeman editor of Haló noviny, Helena Kočová. "I'm personally aware of the danger that threatens us, and I'm going to vote for the candidate who'll go against accepting the migrants, against the Islamization of Europe. And if the 'fat' and 'unrepresentative' Zeman goes against Islamization consistently? Then I’m going to vote for the 'fat and unrepresentative' Zeman for president," she wrote in June.
A few months later, she was allegedly surprised by the popularity of her text, but denies sending it out herself. "It's going around the Internet, and got back to me after several months. I had no idea it was so well-known. People wrote me emails to ask if I really wrote it. It made its way to them by email. The article is freely available on the Haló noviny website, so anyone could copy it from there," Kočová says.
According to the expert, Kopecký, from Palacký University, her article and other email messages have tremendous power - they can reach tens of thousands of people. "Direct email can reach thousands of recipients. The same message then spreads through social networks in specific pro-Zeman groups. There are tens of thousands of people in those, who have read them, seen them and have the potential to spread them further. There's a potential for tens of thousands of users," he points out.
According to Kopecky, one defense could be that companies providing email communications could filter for disinformation. "But the problem is that disinformation emails are spread by users themselves, so someone would have to track their content. Then someone who was only sending information would be blocked. I would like to see what is slowly being put into practice: to make social networks mark true and untrue sources," Kopecký suggests. However, he adds that there’s only one truly effective defense against email and online lies: Education.
Transcript of an interview with Stanislav Sekanina
On your Facebook profile, there's a post that says Mr. Drahoš is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and that the headquarters of the Muslim community in the Czech Republic contributed more than 76 million crowns to his campaign. The same message was spread through emails. Did you spread this?
It came to me from Prague in an email, so I just forwarded it and I put it to up on my [Facebook] profile. I get a lot of these things.
Why did you send this information onward?
Because I don't like it. In a person reads and looks around, it's horrible, where Drahoš crawled out from. Today I also read how much money he invested, that there was some compromising material against him, so he had to take it down. This kind of person isn't supposed to be president. How far would we get with his opinions?
Did you verify the information in that email before you forwarded it? Or do you believe it?
I didn't verify it. How could I? I think that whoever sent it knew something about it. Just when the elections happened, Zeman won Silesia, even though Drahoš comes from there. People probably know him and know what he's all about. So they're not going to vote for him, and those people in Prague, where they don't know him, are going to vote for him? That's completely crazy.
In your opinion, is Mr. Drahoš a member of the Muslim Brotherhood?
If it was written there, someone probably knows.
And couldn't someone just think it up as defamation, to harm him before the election?
They're always coming up with something about Zeman. When Havel got drunk, he was a god, number one. When Zeman gets drunk, he's an alcoholic at best.
So you believe that Drahoš was secretly supported by CZK 76 million from the headquarters of the Muslim community of the Czech Republic?
I believe they gave him more support.
Where would they get that kind of money?
Bakala gave it to them. It's all the same. There's a ton of these thieves who have stolen from us.
What does Bakala have in common with the headquarters of the Muslim community in the Czech Republic?
I know that he has nothing to do with it. It’s all the same. I’m just using an example, because there’s nothing clean or fair with those kind of groups.
So you uncritically believe everything that comes to you?
I don’t believe everything, but I say: There’s a kernel of truth in every statement.
It doesn't bother you that the information isn't true and that you're spreading lies?
But there's a kernel of truth in every statement. These people wouldn't think up anything wrong.
Seniors on the net - 2018 research report
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Lživé e-maily sehrály během voleb svou roli. Důvěra v ně není doménou nevzdělaných, říká analytik Šlerka
Lživé e-maily rozesílané před letošními prezidentskými měly podle analytika Josefa Šlerky z Filozofické fakulty Univerzity Karlovy aktivizační potenciál.
Server iROZHLAS.cz vyhledal autory a šiřitele některých dezinformačních e-mailů, je mezi nimi lékař, advokát, důchodce nebo farmář.