President says she took immediate steps to disassociate from Labour Facebook groups

Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi expressed doubt on the President’s obliviousness to what he said are violent Facebook groups containing illegal content

President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca said she was not aware that she was a member of the Labour Facebook groups
President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca said she was not aware that she was a member of the Labour Facebook groups

President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca told the Times of Malta that she was unaware that she was a member of political Facebook groups which included ‘hateful’ comments.

The President said she was surprised to find out that she was a member in the groups and that “immediate steps” were taken to deal with the situation.

She was found to be part of the groups after an investigation by online portal The Shift News discovered that a number of Labour officials, including the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and a number of his staff members, were members in Facebook groups which they said contained violent comments and threats.

Facebook users can be added into groups by others, but they are often notified when this happens.

Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi pointed out that Coleiro Preca herself called for a law on cyber-bullying in April 2017, and that the groups included “instigations for violence and physical aggression” on non-Labour figures, as well as “coordinated attacks” on anti-corruption activists and the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Azzopardi said that many of the comments were in breach of Malta’s Data Protection Act and Article 82A of the Criminal Code which carries a term of imprisonment of six to 18 months for threatening, abusive, or insulting words which incite violence.

“Is it possible that [the president] didn’t know [she] was a member of these groups in the past six months?” Azzopardi asked. “Is it possible that, in the past six years, [the President] did not read one of the hundreds of violent messages [posted in the groups]?”

Azzopardi went on to criticise the fact that, 24 hours after the article by The Shift was released, the President was still part of the groups, which he insisted contained illegal content.

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