THE HAGUE (Reuters) – A small Dutch town took Twitter (NYSE) to court on Friday to ask the social media giant to remove all messages related to a supposed gang of devil-worshippers who were allegedly active in the city. in the eighties.
Bodegraven-Reeuwijk, a town of about 35,000 people in the central Netherlands, has been the focus of conspiracy theories on social media since 2020, when three men began spreading unfounded stories about child abuse and murder, who they said occurred in town in the eighties.
The main instigator of the stories said that he had childhood memories of witnessing abuse by a group of people in Bodegraven.
The stories caused a lot of upheaval in Bodegraven, as dozens of men’s tweet followers flocked to the local cemetery to lay flowers and write letters on the graves of seemingly random children who died, claiming to be victims of the Satanic Ring.
Twitter’s lawyer, Jens van den Brink, declined to comment ahead of Friday’s hearing in The Hague District Court.
Last year, the same court ordered the men to remove all of their tweets, threats and other online content related to the story and make sure none of it reappears.
But despite their conviction, stories about Bodegraven still circulated on social media as others continued to chant their story, prompting the city to take up the matter with Twitter itself.
“If the conspiracy theorists do not remove their messages, the platforms in question need to act,” Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant quoted Bodegraven town attorney Sy van de Zanden as saying on Friday.
Van de Zanden said that in July the town asked Twitter to find and remove all messages related to the Bodegraven story, not just those posted by the three convicted men, but had received no answer so far from the US company.
The men behind the Bodegraven story are currently in prison, having been convicted in other court cases of sedition and making death threats to a group of people including Prime Minister Mark Rutte and former Health Minister Hugo de Jong.