Love Island Malta's executive producer has called for kindness after the reality show's contestants were insulted and trolled on social media. 

Ben Camille urged people to think twice before posting offensive messages and warned that producers will report any hate speech they come across to the police.  

The Maltese version of the ITV-hit show Love Island features a group of single contestants, better known as “islanders”, who live and interact in a villa isolated from the outside world while being monitored by live television cameras.

While the show will premiere on local TV this Sunday, the men and women who will compete in it are currently being unveiled to the public on social media.  

Contestants are currently being introduced through photos and short videos. But the introductions have attracted several degrading and rude comments about their appearance, personality or intelligence.

"Mentalita u IQ ta' dubbien, imbagħad għax tnejku bija ('Mentality and IQ of a fly, and then they'll say they were mocked')," one comment reads.

Dawn in-nies ħa jirriproduċu? ('Will these people be reproducing?'), another asked.

Others poked fun at the age of 19-year-old contender Gabrielle Cook, calling the show a "childcare centre".

Some also lashed out at contestants who spoke in English, rather than in Maltese. 

The comments did not go unnoticed by the producers. 

“I’m no newbie to television, as I’ve been in front of the camera for a number of years now. But I would have to say as a country, we need to be nicer,” Ben Camille told Times of Malta.

On Thursday evening, Love Island Malta posted a picture with the “#bekind” on its Instagram story.

Screenshot of Love Island Malta's Instagram showing calling for people to "be kind" after social media was flooded with hate comments about contestants. Photo: Instagram/Love Island MaltaScreenshot of Love Island Malta's Instagram showing calling for people to "be kind" after social media was flooded with hate comments about contestants. Photo: Instagram/Love Island Malta

“We need to be kind, as my father used to say, if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all," Camille said. 

He believes a number of comments were written by fake profiles and others as a means to vent anger or frustration.

“This programme is a first, so it’s a big learning curve, not just for us but for the viewers,” he said.

“While everyone has a right to an opinion, we need to remember that some comments can be criminally offensive. Whilst I have not gone through all the comments, we as a team have every right to take legal action if we see such comments.”

Online hate speech is defined as the posting of hurtful or threatening comments meant to attack a person on the basis of their race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender or even disability.

It is illegal and punishable by up to a year-and-a-half in prison, along with hefty fines stretching into thousands of euros. 

Contestants' mental health a main priority

The well-being of the contestants is a number one priority for the producers, Camille said, and the franchise has a “duty of care” team which focuses on the mental health aspect of the show. 

Love Island is a popular reality TV franchise with a years-long history. Despite its popularity, the British show has also proved controversial after a number of people linked to it died by suicide. 

Contestants Sophie Gradon and Mike Thalassitis both died by suicide two years after appearing on the programme, with Grandon having opened up about how she was targeted by cyberbullies after her TV appearance. 

The show’s original presenter, Caroline Flack, also died by suicide. 

While there was no direct link between those deaths and the show, the tragedies raised concerns about participants' mental wellbeing and even sparked calls in some quarters for it to be cancelled.  

Camille said the Maltese show’s psychologist, Darlinka Barbara, was “vetted and approved” by the franchise. 

“She had to follow a number of seminars and classes before she could sit down with the contestants,” he said.

"Every contestant who applied for the show had to sit with Darlinka beforehand. The most important thing is that our contestants are okay and happy, and they are very happy."

Contestants will be asked to attend a number of sessions with the show's therapist even after being voted off, Camille said. The sessions' costs are covered by the production house. 

"Our contestants are happy. The show is about finding love and forming relationships, which is exactly what is happening. It's very exciting to see it happen."

Love Island Malta kicks off on Sunday 14 at 9 pm on TVM. The show will run every day, apart from Friday, at 10 pm.

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