The Prime Minister avoided telling Parliament he remains a member of secret Labour online hate groups on Monday, saying instead he may have been added to these groups without his consent.
Yet, The Shift News has already shown that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat joined one of the secret groups about seven years ago using his personal Facebook profile. The description would read “added” instead of “joined” if Muscat had been added by third parties.
Muscat was answering a parliamentary question by Nationalist Party MP Simon Busuttil on Monday on whether he had left the Facebook groups.
He remains a member even after President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca left the groups soon after they were exposed by The Shift News.
The six-month investigation revealed secret and closed groups totalling some 60,000 members that are a breeding ground for hate speech and the targeting of citizens, journalists, political opponents and the family of assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The Prime Minister gave Parliament a similar answer to the one he had given to The Times of Malta when he also did not say that he had not left the groups.
The Prime Minister said that Facebook profiles could be added to groups without the user being made aware.
This is false; particularly with secret or closed groups the user needs to be invited by someone who is both a member of the group and friends with the user and, in addition, an administrator needs to approve the invitation.
Moreover, the Facebook user would receive a notification that s/he has been added to the group. The profile continues to receive notifications of posts to the group. The user can choose not to receive notifications, but it means s/he is aware of the groups and their content. More so if, as many are, they are tagged in posts in the group.
Muscat remains a member of the groups: Moviment Laburista L-Aqwa Zmien Ta Pajjizna #JOSEPH #MUSCAT, Laburisti Sal-Mewt, Kemm Se Nsibu Laburisti fuq Facebook?
The groups’ administrators include a candidate for the Labour Party local council elections and two members of staff at the Justice Ministry, which is responsible for protecting freedom of expression.
Posts in the group incite members to violence, encourage people to ‘name and shame’ dissidents with the aim of silencing them, and they demonise and discredit political opponents and journalists, as well as the Archbishop.
Read more: Labour’s secret online groups