The Maltese are the most likely among all EU countries to identify hate speech as an issue affecting them online, according to a recent Eurobarometer report.

Almost four out of 10 (39%) Maltese respondents said hate speech online had a big impact on them, almost double the EU average (22%) and the highest proportion across the bloc.

Slovenia (37%) was next, followed by Poland (31%) and France (30%), ‘The Digital Decade’ Eurobarometer report said.

The Maltese were the second most likely nation to identify untrustworthy online sellers as an issue, with one third of Maltese saying such sellers had significantly impacted them – a proportion six percentage points ahead of the EU average (26%).

Only respondents in Finland (34%) felt more impacted by untrustworthy sellers, while Hungary and Czechia (both 31%) were just behind Malta.

Overall, however, the Maltese said they were most impacted by misuse of personal data (52%) and fake news and disinformation (46%), a situation mirrored across Europe.

While the Maltese said they were more impacted by the misuse of personal data than the average European, they noted they were less affected by fake news than their counterparts elsewhere across the bloc.

Meanwhile, unjustified removal of online content and terrorist content was seen as having the least impact on Maltese internet users, with only 7% and 9%, respectively, identifying the issues as factors affecting them.

Questions about issues affecting online users appear to show the EU trying to gauge the success of its Digital Services Act (DSA), with respondents asked which issues had the biggest impact on their lives “in the context of the enforcement of this legislation”.

The DSA is a binding regulation introduced in 2022 governing online marketplaces, social networks, app stores and travel and accommodation platforms. According to the European Commission website, its “main goal is to prevent illegal and harmful activities online and the spread of disinformation”.

In general, the Maltese placed high importance on digital technologies in their lives, with at least seven out 10 saying they would be important for a range of civic, personal and professional activities by 2030.

Between 71% and 86% of Maltese said digital technology would be important in all 10 areas of daily life mentioned in the survey, recording responses above the EU average in all cases.

Respondents in Malta said such technologies would be most important for connecting with family and friends (86%) and accessing public services (84%) by the end of the decade.

The Maltese also appeared to be more positive about the impacts of digital technology, with four out of five saying it made their lives easier.

Almost nine out of 10 (89%) said more widely available and affordable high-speed internet would improve their use of tech, closely followed by improved cybersecurity (88%).

Meanwhile, more than nine out of 10 (91%) said they wanted to see the authorities make sure AI “respects our rights and values” while a staggering 95% said they wanted those in power to increase research and innovation.

The Eurobarometer study is usually held twice a year – between April and May and in the months of October and November – by the European Commission and is aimed at obtaining information about attitudes to political and social issues across the bloc.

This Special Eurobarometer survey was conducted between March 6 and April 8, with 500 Maltese citizens interviewed by computer assisted video interviews.

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