The Audiencia Nacional has taken a significant decision in relation to the so-called "Operation Púnica", which for almost a decade has investigated the contracting of online reputation work by government officials and People's Party. In a recent order, the magistrate Manuel García Castellón has agreed to shelve part 10 of this case, which focused on the contracting of digital marketing services to the companies EICO and Madiva, led by the computer expert Alejandro de Pedro. This news is of great relevance in the field of online reputation and this article will tell you all the details and key considerations about it.
Part 10 of the Púnica case
The Púnica case has been one of the longest and most widely followed scandals in Spain. This long and complex process was initiated in 2014 under the leadership of the then Judge Eloy Velasco. This research focused on determine whether the hiring of online reputation services by politicians and public officials of the Partido Popular constituted a criminal offence.. During these nine years, a total of 40 people were investigated, including former mayors and other public officials, as well as the aforementioned Alejandro de Pedro.
The investigation covered a number of offences, including falsification of commercial documents, embezzlement, prevarication, influence peddling and bribery. The central question in this case was whether it was possible to differentiate clearly and precisely between the institutional promotion of a person's position and the promotion of his or her personal political prestige. This distinction becomes even more complicated in the context of social media and digital marketing strategies, where the goal is to improve a politician's public image.
The difficulty of differentiating between personal and institutional promotion
The magistrate García Castellón argues that in the age of social media and internet communication, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, effectively separating a politician's personal image from the institution he or she represents. In many cases, continuity in political office depends to a large extent on the public's perception of a politician's actions and the recognition of his or her activity.
If a criminal investigation were to be launched for every politician who manages a social media profile or hires marketing services, to determine whether this promotion is of an institutional or personal nature, the investigative courts would be overburdened and, more importantly, the criminal justice system would be undermined.
In the case of part 10 of Operation Punic, the magistrate concluded that there was insufficient evidence to establish that the contracting of Alejandro de Pedro's services was intended for the personal benefit of those under investigation or if it was linked to the position they held. In addition, it was found that the services contracted were not of a private nature, but were related to public activities.
Political marketing and its relevance
In today's environment, the marketing strategies are essential for politicians, as continuity in office may depend on the reach and recognition they gain in the general public.
This case sheds light on the complexity of the management of the online reputation in the political and public sphere. At Honoralia, as a company specialising in the right to be forgotten and reputation enhancement, we face similar situations on a constant basis. The National Court's decision highlights the need to understand and properly address the blurred line between personal and institutional promotion in the online world.
Our work involves helping individuals and businesses to protect and enhance your online image, as well as deal with harmful or inappropriate content on the internet. The decision to close this investigation underlines the importance of having legal experts who understand the complexities of online reputation and who can offer effective solutions to similar challenges.
In all the contracts analysed, the magistrate concluded that the agreed services were provided and that the news items published were not of a private nature, but related to activities of a public nature. Furthermore, no evidence was found that the prices paid were above market prices in the area of the advertising in the media.
This outcome marks the end of a long-running investigation that has been closely followed by the public and raises important questions about the relationship between online promotion and political activity. In an increasingly connected world, protecting and enhancing one's online image has become a critical need for individuals and organisations alike, and at Honoralia we are committed to providing effective solutions in this area.