Twitter account critical of right-wing organisation taken offline after death threats
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Twitter account critical of right-wing organisation taken offline after death threats

Van Langenhove campaigning for Vlaams Belang in May. Credit © Facebook

A Twitter account criticising the Flemish extremist group Schild & Vrienden has been taken offline after its owner received death threats.

The account, named Schuld & Vrienden as a play on words meaning “guilt and friends”, was run by a teaching assistant and doctoral student at the University of Ghent. The account was originally anonymous, but supporters of the group discovered the identity of the owner and contacted him with death threats.

Schild & Vriend (shield and friend) is a shibboleth used in the 14th century to distinguish Flemish militiamen in Bruges from occupying French military: the pronunciation would have been very difficult, if not impossible, for a non-Dutch speaker to replicate correctly.

The organisation of that same name, came to public notice last year after a VRT report revealed the sexist, anti-Semitic and racist language being used by members on a closed Facebook group. Before then, however, the spoof account was publishing inside information on the group on Twitter.

The founder and leader of Schild & Vrienden, Dries Van Langenhove, was suspended by the University of Ghent as a student representative on the university board and banned from the university grounds. However, that ban was partially reversed by a court and Van Langehove was allowed access to the library to complete his thesis. Van Langenhove (pictured) was recently elected in the May elections to sit in the federal parliament for Vlaams Belang, with some 23,000 first preference votes.

In the meantime, supporters of Van Langenhove’s group discovered the identity of the spoof account’s owner and sent him death threats. They also claimed the account had published private information concerning members of the group who are students at the university, thereby abusing his position as part of the teaching staff.

The university has now denied the accusation. “There is no indication he abused his position as a teaching assistant at UGent,” the university said in a statement. He never had access to personal information on students in connection with his function, and published tweets under the account on his own behalf and not as a representative of the university, the statement said.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times