Tuesday 04 October 2022

Dutch town takes Twitter to court over paedophile conspiracy theories

Flowers left in the graveyard. Photo: Werry Crone ANP

The Dutch town of Bodegraven has taken social media platform Twitter to court in an effort to end the spread of rumours about Satanic rites and paedophiles.

The case, heard by judges in The Hague on Friday, centres on stories about satanic paedophile networks and ritual child murder in the town, which have been circulated by conspiracy theorists since 2020.

In June three men were jailed and given community service sentences in relation to the claims. One of them, Joost Knevel, who grew up in Bodegraven, began the rumour about a paedophile group in the town in the 1980s. His story was embraced by the others who spread the theories online using a variety of channels.

At one point, they spread rumours that RIVM chief Jaap van Dissel had headed the group and he had to be given permanent security.

The men also spread items online calling for executions and tribunals for a ‘sado-pedo elite’, leading other conspiracy theorists to visit the town cemetery and lay flowers on the graves of children who had died there.

The three were earlier ordered to pay €215,000 in damages to the local authority after it was forced to use its emergency powers to ban them from the graveyard and bring in permanent security.

Prevention

Twitter has since suspended the accounts of those involved, but the local authority claims it has not done enough to remove stories about the satanic cult still in circulation.

The council’s lawyer told the court on Friday that the platform was lax in its approach and was earning lots of money on the back of the claims, local broadcaster Omroep West reported.

Twitter’s lawyer said in response that the company has done everything it could to remove the conspiracy theorists’ stories. However, it would be going too far to require Twitter itself to check all posts before they are published, he said.

The court will publish its verdict on October 4.

A fourth man, Micha Kats, who is involved in spreading the theory was arrested in Northern Ireland last year and has since been extradited to the Netherlands to face other charges.

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