dragnet within an “antivax” group, three Mosellens arrested

Eight people, suspected of belonging to a structured group of anti-vaccine movement online stalkers, were arrested in Moselle, Rhône, Seine et Marne, Hauts de Seine and Finistère, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office. Two men aged 45 and 54 and six women aged 40 to 52 were taken into custody. Among them, a couple lives in Hayange, a woman in Thionville.

All will soon be tried for online moral harassment. They are suspected of having harassed in a concerted way, between the spring and the end of the summer of 2021, three people: two elected officials and a doctor. The victims are the PS senator from Charente Nicole Bonnefoy, a department head from the Amiens University Hospital and the LREM deputy from Moselle Isabelle Rauch. The latter filed a complaint twice to denounce the attacks she had to suffer on her Facebook account last spring. “I was called a health Nazi,” she notes. It also evokes the swastikas slipped into some comments. “It seemed important to me to file a complaint to stop this, to prove that there is no impunity online. But also to send a signal to the victims of digital attacks because there are laws that protect us, a cell, investigators who do their job, ”underlines the MP.

The research section of Metz seized

The investigation and the crackdown that followed were coordinated by the Paris public prosecutor’s office, its national center for the fight against online hate, and the central office for the fight against crimes against humanity (a service attached to the National Gendarmerie). In Moselle, the research section of the Metz gendarmerie was seized. The investigative group specializing in cybercrime contributed to the identification of members of the anti-vaccine movement who were targeted and led part of the police custody.

The eight people arrested on Tuesday would be administrators or members of the group of Italian origin “ViVi” or “V_V”. The movement claims to bring together web “warriors” who highlight in their digital profiles the mask of Guy Fawkes, a character taken from the work, since popularized by Anonymous hackers and become an emblem of the defense of freedoms. On social networks, the tactic consists in particular of leaving comments under the messages of the people targeted, rather than posting content. To get through Facebook’s automatic detection, they used slightly modified spellings like “vaxcinati” instead of “vaccinati”, to mean “vaccinated people” in Italian.

Imprisonment and fine incurred

Under the publications of institutions, elected officials or press articles, we can thus see dozens of messages appearing, sometimes perfectly identical, published in a short period of time. They denounce “vaccination blackmail”, “the real virus (which) is the government and the system that kills people and destroys society” and say “stop the suppression of rights”. Harassment, when committed online or via a digital medium, is punishable by two years in prison and a fine of 30,000 euros.

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