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Drugs, cats and criticism: Austria to investigate possible hate speech against satirical author Stefanie Sargnagel

After a bizarre back-and-forth of publications, criticisms and Facebook posts, Austrian authorities have announced they will look into whether author Stefanie Sargnagel was the target of hate speech.

The surge of hateful Facebook comments calling for the death and rape of Sargnagel could constitute hate speech, a criminal offence in Austria, a police spokesperson confirmed on Monday.

The authority's statement accompanied the announcement that officials would open an investigation into the affair.

The investigation is the latest in a chain of events spanning Morocco and Austria that has drawn in social media giant Facebook as well as various big names in Austria's media and political landscape.

Dear diary - it all started in Morroco

Hafenstadt Essaouira (picture-alliance/dpa/M. Murat)

Sargnagel traveled to the Moroccan coastal city Essaouira

The saga began when Sargnagel along with two other authors published a satirical diary of the literary trio's publicly-funded trip to Morocco. The account, published in the Austrian daily "Der Standard," satirized their travels with flippant and often crass remarks about heavy alcohol consumption, drug use, animal insensitivity, along with ironically-intended superficial cultural content.

"The Cologne train station promised way too much," Sargnagel wrote on wearing a miniskirt out on the streets Essaouira, referencing the mass sexual harassment of women that took place in the western German city on New Year's eve in 2015. Men of North African origin were accused of making up a large part of the assailants. 

Kronen Zeitung in Österreich (picture-alliance/ dpa)

The Kronen Zeitung is Austria's most circulated paper

Despite the satirical nature of Sargnagel and company's writings, the Austrian tabloid Kronen Zeitung published a polemic on March 8, International Women's Day, entitled "Boozing and getting high on tax payer money" that lambasted the three women and their behavior. The Krone, the nation's largest paper, is known for its Euroskeptic, anti-immigrant and populist views.

Sargnagel then received a hailstorm of hate messages on Facebook, some of which called for the 31-year-old to be raped or executed for treason.

After reposting the threatening messages and responding to them with a satirical post about torturing baby cats, critics flagged Sargnagel's posts to Facebook, who then closed her account for 30 days. However, the author's account was reopened on Monday. The same day, the author sarcastically tweeted "I mean, she kicked all those cats."

The closing and re-opening of the Sargnagel's page comes as the social media powerhouse faces increased pressure from the German government to curb online hate speech.

The red-beret wearing author said she would denounce all the authors behind the hate posts.

Sargnagel, who won the Public's Prize at the 2016 Bachmann literary awards, is known for her often satirical and sharply critical work that often centers on Austria's far-right political scene, including the Freedom Party (FPÖ). She has previously been the subject of critical attacks from far-right commentators and FPÖ supporters.

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