With Europe’s next major election set to take place in Italy on Sunday, fears that false information could mislead voters have again surfaced.
Misinformation has thrived on social media, where it can be difficult to tell the difference between real and false quotes, images and articles.
And with internet companies and governments struggling to keep up with the waves of false reports, politicians have expressed concern about how the misinformation might skew the voting process and stoke tensions.
Here are examples of how false information has spread in Europe recently, polarizing opinions about contentious topics like Muslim immigration.
Jiri Drahos was the main opponent of President Milos Zeman in the Czech presidential election in January.
In the summer of 2017, Aeronet News, a Czech news website that has been linked to fake news in the past and that has a distinctly pro-Russia bent, published an article insinuating that Mr. Drahos had committed acts of pedophilia and that he had collaborated with the secret police in the 1980s.
After the article received lots of attention, Mr. Drahos released a statement on his website in which he denied the allegations, but the damage, it seems, had already been done.
Two months before the French presidential election of 2017, Bernard Barrier, who claimed to be a former employee of the French Ministry of Defense, posted a map that he said showed the locations of clashes between immigrants and the police.
The map was shared more than 15,600 times on Facebook. But it was later proved that the image had been taken from an article in the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph article, published in 2005, about riots mainly by mobs of young people from poor neighborhoods.
Immigration played a crucial role in the campaigning, and Marine Le Pen, of the far-right National Front, made the final round of voting. But she was beaten by the center-right politician Emmanuel Macron.
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany visited refugees in Berlin in 2015. While there, Anas Modamani, a Syrian refugee, took a selfie with her, which he then posted to his Facebook account.
Then came the Brussels attacks in March 2016. When a photograph of the prime suspect was publicized, the selfie with Ms. Merkel, who had been under pressure for her open-door policy toward refugees, started circulating on social media — but with Mr. Modamani falsely identified as one of the bombers.
Mr. Modamani sued Facebook in an attempt to prevent its users from further reposting the picture, but he lost the case.
On the day in October that Catalan secessionists voted for independence from Spain, a Twitter account with the name Persian Rose shared a video that claimed to show violence by the Spanish police against voters in Catalonia.
The post received more than 3,900 retweets. Even though the video featured the unsavory actions of Spanish police officers, the footage had nothing to do with the vote in Catalonia.
It was about a general strike and was first posted to YouTube in 2012.
A few hours after a deadly terrorist attack on Westminster Bridge in London in March 2017, a post on Twitter accused a woman wearing a hijab of paying “no mind to the terror attack” and of “casually” walking by a dying man.
It was quickly shared widely on social media.
But the moment described in the photograph was misrepresented and out of context. Twitter later identified the account, which at the time went by the description “proud Texan and American patriot,” as Russia-based.
Fears also persist that Russian interference played a role in Britain’s vote in 2016 to leave the European Union.