The crimes that can be incurred when spreading hoaxes - La Provincia

The State Attorney General It has prepared a report that identifies a dozen criminal types that can be incurred by the dissemination of false news, always depending on the content or the degree of disclosure, ranging from hate crimes, public disorder, insults or slander to scams. and against consumers.

This appears in the document prepared by the Technical Secretariat of the Public ministry, to which Europa Press has had access, which serves as a guide for Spanish prosecutors who have to face proceedings that are opened in this regard in the framework of the pandemic of coronavirus.

"The 'fake news' or false news currently flood the internet pages and social networks, being able to generate confusion and even alter citizens' perception of reality. This, together with the current situation of sanitary crisis, constitute the favorable breeding ground for some people, taking advantage of the existing confusion, to try to attack certain legal assets, among them especially the heritage and, singularly, those of those who are in a increased vulnerability, "explains the report by way of context.

The Office of the Prosecutor affirms that these false news are "of such varied content that, depending on what they refer to and with what intention they are disseminated, they can include very different criminal types. There have already been several complaints that have been filed with the Public Ministry for hoaxes spread on social networks.

Hate crimes

The report firstly analyzes hate crimes, for which it gives the example of two complaints recently filed by the Prosecutor's Office, specifically the provincial of Barcelona, against individual citizens who published or retweeted messages in which criminal acts were falsely attributed to a certain social group, in this case unaccompanied foreign minors.

"From the content of the tweets it can be inferred the will of its authors to undermine the dignity and generate discredit of certain groups," explains the Prosecutor's Office, adding that the complaints have been filed for a crime typified in article 510.2.a of the Penal Code and punished with a prison sentence of 6 months to 2 years and a fine of 6 to 12 months.

The authors or disseminators of hoaxes may also commit a crime of discovery and disclosure of secrets "if disinformation is accompanied by disclosure of personal data." This type of criminal offense, if aggravated, is punishable by between 2 and 5 years in prison, even in its upper half.

In cases of very extreme gravity and being the victim an individual person, the false news could become part of the crime against the moral integrity of article 173.1 of the Penal Code, which provides for penalties of between 6 months and 2 years in prison, the report stresses.

As for 'fake news' containing alarm messages, terrorist attacks or catastrophes, which imply situations of danger to society or require the assistance and activation of emergency services, the false statement or the simulation could be constitutive of the crime of public disorder of articles 561 and / or 562 of the Penal Code, which provides penalties ranging from 3 months and 1 day in prison to 1 year or a fine of 3 to 18 months.

Offenses and slander can also be committed by spreading hoaxes. Specifically, that of insults is included in article 209 of the Penal Code, punished, if it is with advertising, with the penalty of a fine of 6 to 14 months and, in another case, with a fine of 3 to 7 months; while that of slander is contemplated in article 206, which provides for 6 months to 2 years or a fine of 12 to 24 months if they were propagated with advertising and, in another case, with a fine of 6 to 12 months.

False cures

On the other hand, the report explains that in the context of the coronavirus pandemic "scams have been detected consisting of raising money to cure the disease or establishing links with false diagnoses to achieve personal information"

According to the document, the Computer Crime Unit The Prosecutor's Office has sometimes denounced the news about curative methods without medically contrasted or clearly ineffective in case they could integrate any of the crimes against public health provided for in the Penal Code.

However, the action of these types includes verbs such as manufacture, import, export, supply, intermediate, commercialize, so that, says the Public Ministry, "convictions are not easy to obtain for those who simply make them known by attributing false properties ".

If the above conduct is accompanied, as usual, by the existence of a business based on a false news item about the healing properties of a certain substance without scientifically contrasting, it could be a crime of fraud of articles 248 and following of the Penal Code, which provide prison terms of 6 months to 3 years in the basic type.

This conduct could also constitute an offense of intrusion, punishable by a fine of 12 to 24 months. If the professional activity carried out requires a Official title that accredits the necessary training and legally qualifies for its exercise, and is not in possession of said title, the penalty of a fine of 6 to 12 months will be imposed.

Finally, in the area of ​​crimes against the market and consumers, the Prosecutor's Office explains that this criminal type punishes, according to article 282, manufacturers or merchants who, in their offers or advertising of products or services, make false allegations or manifest uncertain characteristics on them, so that they can cause serious and manifest harm to consumers. "

As the report highlights, there are various criminal types that punish false information. For example, article 284.1.2 of the Penal Code provides for imprisonment from 6 months to 2 years or fine from 12 to 24 months to whom "directly or indirectly or through a means of communication, the internet or the use of information and communication technologies, or by any other means, spread news or rumors or transmit false or misleading signals about people or companies, knowingly offering totally or partially false economic data for the purpose of altering or preserving the listing price of a related financial instrument or cash commodity contract or manipulating the calculation of a benchmark index, when they obtain, for themselves or for third, a benefit, provided that one of the following circumstances occurs ".


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