The police cannot do all the work to tackle hate speech on social media, Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia has insisted, stressing that online media also has certain responsibilities to monitor the discourse.

In comments to Times of Malta on Thursday, following the inauguration of a new specialised unit to tackle hate crime in Valletta, the police minister was adamant that the police could not address the problem alone.

The new unit will be focused on helping the victims “rather than carrying out witch-hunts on social media,” Dr Farrugia said. The new unit will be focusing on educating the public on hate speech and hate crimes, to help victims and curb offences. 

Video: Matthew Mirabelli

“If one has to evaluate and look at those comments, one will realise that those comments were all made online. The online media has a responsibility to evaluate what is being said, because at the end of the day, it is not just the police’s responsibility,” Dr Farrugia said.

The minister was referring to hundreds of Facebook comments posted earlier in the week following the migrant riot at the open centre in Ħal Far on Sunday night.

Many resorted to threats of violence against migrants, to the extent that some even heaped praise on the killers of an Ivorian man earlier this year. Despite media reports flagging the hateful comments, nobody has yet been charged with committing a crime.

When asked why the police had yet to take action despite the hundreds of comments, Dr Farrugia again reiterated that the police evaluated every report and that action will be taken depending on the outcome of such evaluations.

He warned politicians, the media and anyone with an online presence to be mindful of their speech so as not to “instigate hate” or spread misinformation.

“We need to be careful when expressing ourselves because sometimes using one word and not the other can result in a bigger reaction,” Dr Farrugia said.

The minister would not comment whether different tactics were used when the hate was addressed towards police officers.  Three people were taken to court last year after posting hateful messages about the police on Facebook.

He insisted the cases involving online attacks against the police were still subject to court scrutiny, and thus, he could not comment about them.

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