Barcelona deny reports they paid company for social media posts to protect Bartomeu and attack Messi, Pique

Ben Hayward
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Barcelona have issued a strong statement denying a report which had claimed the club were paying a company to attack third parties on social media, including members of their own squad.

Radio show La Llotja, on Cadena SER, said on Monday that Barca had contracted a social media firm, I3 Ventures, which was using dozens of accounts on Facebook and Twitter to "protect the reputation of president Josep Maria Bartomeu" and to "erode the image of ex-players, election candidates" and more.

The investigation went on to claim that Barca had targeted current players Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique, along with former coach Pep Guardiola, club legends Xavi and Carles Puyol, ex-president Joan Laporta and future candidate Victor Font.

But Barca denied the information in a five-point statement released on Monday afternoon, admitting a working relationship with I3 ventures but claiming there is no link to the accounts referenced.

On their website, the Spanish champions said they "roundly deny any relationship, and furthermore, the contracting of services linked to social media accounts that have broadcast negative or disparaging messages related to any person, entity or organisation that may be, or have been, related to the Club".

"I3 Ventures, a service provider to the Club, has no relationship with the accounts mentioned and, if any relationship were to come to light, the Club would immediately end their contractual agreement and bring about any necessary legal action to defend their interests," they added.

The statement went on to give an explanation of their link with the social media company, which is based in Buenos Aires.

"FC Barcelona confirm that it has services contracted relating to the monitoring of social media with the aim of analysing both positive and negative messages about the organisation itself," they said.

"With the contracting of these services, the Club is attempting to look after and preserve its reputation as well those of people related to the Club (sponsors, players, board members, members, supporters' club members...), as far as the protection of this reputation is a fundamental element and responsibility for those who work for the organisation."

In their last point, Barca called for a rectification from Cadena SER and threatened legal action against the station if that failed to materialise.

"The Club demands an immediate rectification of the information published and reserves the right to exercise legal action against those who continue to implicate the Club in such practices," they said.

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