Barcelona have denied accusations the club hired a company to make negative comments about its own players and opponents on social media in order to boost the image of senior club officials.
Barcelona released a statement after the Cadena Ser radio network said a company used fake social media accounts to discredit opposition figures and even some of its players when they expressed views that went against the club.
It has been reported that the posts from those accounts were aimed at current players such as Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique, as well as former Barcelona stars Pep Guardiola, Carles Puyol, and Xavi.
Barcelona have released the following statement: "With regards to information published today about the contracting of a company dedicated to creating opinion on social media with a view to damaging the image of third parties related directly or indirectly with the Club, FC Barcelona:
"1.- 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 maybe, or have been, related to the club.
"2. - 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.
"3.- As such, 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.
"4.- 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.
"5.- 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."