Opposition MP Therese Comodini Cachia called on Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to send a clear message against online mobbing by disassociating himself and severing any ties he has with Labour online hate groups.
Speaking in parliament on Monday, Comodini Cachia said that online hate groups, such as the ones exposed by The Shift News investigation, are “controlling and stifling political debate” to instigate hate against whoever has a diverse opinion.
The Shift News revealed a large network of secret and closed pro-Muscat Facebook groups that are now administered by government and Labour Party officials. Amid repeated diversions and half-truths, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and many senior government officials remain members of these 60,000 member-strong groups replete with hate speech and routinely used to manipulate online polls in the government’s favour or co-ordinate online ‘mobbings’ on critics or activists.
Investigations show these groups are also being used to drive an agenda; in the process twisting events and the news around it. The typical series of events observed involves Labour Party activists manufacturing a scandal, passing the manufactured scandal onto Labour Party controlled media, using those media reports to bait pro-Muscat group members into reacting with outrage, and who then direct their hate at individual citizens and anti-corruption activists.
”These groups are abusing social media to foster political hate, to stifle free debate which is essential to democracy. These groups are destroying the sense of community which every society needs by attacking citizens’ sense of security,” Comdini Cachia said.
Noting that MPs on both sides of the House of Representatives repeatedly call for national unity, the MP said it was investigative journalists such as The Shift News who uncovered the extent of the influence wielded by online hate groups which count Labour politicians, including Prime Minister Joseph Muscat as members.
Describing how coordinated efforts to influence public opinion by targeting dissenting voices, Comodini Cachia said these effectively are used to influence the news cycle.
Urging Muscat, Labour MPs and public officials to back up their calls for national unity by disassociating themselves completely from such online hate groups, Comodini Cachia said their failure to do so “confirms that for the Labour administration rule of law only means rule by government and democracy only exists for those in agreement with it.”
While commenting that her speech in Parliament will probably turn her into a target for these online hate groups, Comodini Cachia said that while online mobbing should be investigated and sanctioned by the courts but Muscat and his MPs should send a clear message that “online mobbing, hate and incitement have no place in our society” by disassociating themselves from such groups.