In February 2021, Qurium, an organization that provides secure web hosting services for human rights organizations and independent news outlets, received a rambling message from someone whose email signature indicated they were in the legal department of the European Commission.
Writing in dense legalese, the representative, “Raúl Soto,” demanded that Qurium take action on articles from a Kenyan-based investigative journalism website that it hosts, The Elephant. The articles in question included an investigation into alleged corruption, but Soto’s email wasn’t about the allegations. Rather, he claimed that the piece had infringed the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which governs personal data collection and storage in Europe.
Qurium’s staff were suspicious. A brief investigation revealed that the street address in Soto’s signature was not, in fact, that of the European Commission; rather, it was a rented office space in Brussels.
This story, the result of months of investigation based on a leaked database of clients from a Spanish "reputation management" company, was part of a series of articles on information control that was shortlisted for the 2022 Fetisov journalism awards.