Editorial, 8 July 2022
On 25 September 2017, the Canadian laboratory behind ‘CatalanGate’ published a list of the referendum websites blocked by the Guardia Civil.
Citizen Lab, the Canadian technology and human rights laboratory that published, on 18 April, the report christened ‘CatalanGate’ on the alleged spying with malicious software of 67 people in favour of the independence of Catalonia, collaborated in autumn 2017 with the supporters of the referendum of 1 October. Malware scientist Jonathan Scott states, in his report “Uncovering Citizen Lab, Debunking CatalanGate”, that “on 25 September 2017, Citizen Lab worked with pro-independence supporters and compiled a list of domains censored by the Spanish government”.
In July 2020, Citizen Lab informed the then president of the Parliament, Roger Torrent, that his mobile phone had been attacked with the Pegasus malware, taking advantage of a security breach that had occurred in the WhatsApp service a year earlier. However, the good relationship between this laboratory, which is part of the University of Toronto, and the Catalan pro-independence world goes back much further. On 25 September 2017, Citizen Lab published the list of blocked domains “accusing the Spanish government of illegally censoring websites, violating human rights”, explains Scott, who also states that even then it presented “the Spanish government in a negative light and as totalitarian”.
The repository where Citizen Lab published the domains censored by the Guardia Civil of the websites that the digital experts working for the Catalan government were creating included 32 references. These references coincided with many of those that Elies Campo, the pro-independence digital activist who has ended up being the Catalan coordinator of the so-called CatalanGate, was spreading on social networks at the time. The addresses of the new websites created by Elies Campo and his fellow digital activists, many of whom appear as victims in CatalanGate, consisted of the word ‘referendum’ and domains such as .party, .legal, .love, .ninja, .observer,….
Elies Campo created a thread on Twitter on 13 September that began with this message: “#President @KRLS, @govern, if they close #Referendum #1O referendum.cat again, I’ve been searching the Internet.”. He then displayed a list of domains, all of them included in the repository created by Citizen Lab.
The collaboration between the Catalan independence movement’s leadership and the laboratory that, in April 2022, has handed it CatalanGate on a plate to mobilise its supporters thus dates back more than four and a half years.