More false rumor arrests in Mexico

The L.A. Times reports on Mexico's latest misinformation scandal:

Authorities said five people, four men and a woman, were arrested Thursday evening in the Agricola Oriental neighborhood of the Iztacalco borough.

They allegedly were warning residents through a megaphone to close their shops and stay indoors because a political group known as Antorcha Campesina was heading there to commit crimes, authorities said.

At least one of the people detained told authorities that they were being paid 400 pesos each, or about $31, to spread the warnings, Mexico City Atty. Gen. Jesus Rodriguez said in a radio interview, but the source of the payments was not yet known.

The rumors may apparently be related to a deadly clash between two groups of bike taxi drivers and their spread was naturally accelerated by false reports on social media. 

In 2011, Mexico attracted international attention when authorities attempted to charge two Twitter users with terrorism for spreading false rumors about violence near Veracruz. The charges could have carried sentences of up to 30 years in prison but were eventually dropped.

India has also come under fire for what free-speech advocates see as a heavy-handed response to falso online rumors of impending ethnic violence that had thousands fleeing Bangalore and other cities in August. 


Geert Wilders' American friends

Anthony Deutsch and Mark Hosenball suggest in a new article for Reuters that anti-Islam Dutch politician Geert Wilders' activities are being financially supported -- at least in part -- by anti-Islam groups in the United States:

The Middle East Forum, a pro-Israeli think tank based in Philadelphia, funded Wilders' legal defense in 2010 and 2011 against Dutch charges of inciting racial hatred, its director Daniel Pipes said. The Middle East Forum has a stated goal, according to its website, of protecting the "freedom of public speech of anti-Islamist authors, promoting American interests in the Middle East and protecting the constitutional order from Middle Eastern threats". It sent money directly to Wilders' lawyer via its Legal Project, Pipes said.

FrontPage magazine editor David Horowitz acknowledged paying Wilders "a good fee" for making speeches in the United States and helping to raise money to help him fight a controversial travel ban in Britain. He also co-hosted an auction of the Danish Mohammed cartoons with Wilders in Los Angeles but does not remember what happened to the proceeds. 

Horowitz and Pipes deny funding the Freedom Party's activities in Holland, which would be illegal under U.S. law. Unlike most Dutch parties, the Freedom Party does not accept government subsidies, which means it doesn't have to disclose its funding sources to the same extent. Its critics have alleged that much of its funding comes from outside the country. 

There isn't quite a smoking gun here. Paying Wilders speaking fees or helping raise money for his legal defense isn't quite the same thing as funding his political activities. But the article does underline the growing affinity between anti-Islam groups in the U.S. and their counterparts on the European far right which became apparent during the "Ground Zero Mosque" controversy.

In 2009, I attended a speech Wilders gave in Washington hosted by Frank Gaffney's Center for Security Policy. During that same trip, he was invited by U.S. Senator John Kyl to show his controversial documentary Fitna on Capitol Hill. 

The Netherlands is holding closely-watched parliamentary elections on Wednesday, during which Wilders' group, along with the far-left Socialist Party, are looking to take advantage of anti-EU sentiment.