July 2019 marked the end of State Police investigation of a criminal process launched last year in relation to distribution of fake news. One Niks Endziņš was arrested as a result of the criminal process in 2018.
The investigation revealed that the crime in question was committed by a group of three to obtain monetary benefits. Police have successfully put an end to committed illegalities and have acquired sufficient evidence to prosecute the group in question. On 12 July, Riga Court Region’s Prosecutor’s Office presented charges to the persons made suspect in the criminal process, as confirmed by State Police Public Relations Office senior specialist Gita Gžibovska.
In July 2018, State Police Economic Crimes Enforcement Unit commenced a criminal process following requests from multiple businessmen and state institution representatives in regards to the spread of fake news that caused a serious public resonance and exploited people’s lack of comprehension of the law, misleading them.
The spread of fake news disrupts public order and the function of companies and state institutions responsible for taking action in emergencies.
Police concluded in the investigation that there are at least seven internet websites engaged in the spread of fake news – tv-play.lv, neticams.net, redzams.lv, redzams.net, kasjauns.net, parvisu.net and atklats.com. All of them are maintained by several persons. They use social networks to report fake news, thereby intentionally misleading users and luring them to fake news websites.
Throughout spring and summer of 2018 a group of people had been publishing false information about all kinds of tragedies, road traffic accidents, natural disasters and accidents to attract the attention of a wide audience. For every person lured to one of the aforementioned website the group of people were paid money from advertisement companies who gladly used those websites for promotional purposes. Revenue of the crime group depended on the number of lured people, police explain.
During the criminal process investigators found that the 1997-born owner and the one responsible for maintenance for websites was the one who published fake news there. The suspect was arrested in August 2018.
Two other suspects were found during the investigation. As owners of websites they published fake news in order to profit from ad revenue. They had also used social media accounts to promote their websites.