Lovin Malta has filed a complaint with the Data Protection Commissioner after the government once again refused to provide basic details about money spent by ministers on Facebook.
Ministers are currently under a magisterial inquiry after a Standards Commissioner report found “widespread misuse of public resources” by ministers who used taxpayer money and resources to fund their personal Facebook pages.
Lovin Malta filed a series of Freedom of Information requests to find out more about exactly how much public money and resources ministers have been using since 2013. However, these requests were refused on the grounds that the information is not held by a public authority.
Lovin Malta appealed on the grounds that such information was readily accessible from Facebook account records. This appeal was also turned down for the same reasons.
Now, Lovin Malta has filed a complaint with the Data Protection Commissioner, which is the next step in the process when FOI requests are turned down. It will now be up to the Data Protection Commissioner to decide whether such information should be made public.
Among other things, Lovin Malta asked all ministers to name the official administrators of their pages, the amount of money spent on Facebook advertising since 2013, a breakdown of how much was spent using taxpayer money versus personal money and the total production cost of any content that was specifically created for their personal pages.
The government has also repeatedly refused to publish the official Social Media Code that ministers are meant to be abiding by following the Standards Commissioner’s report.
According to information that had been published in Parliament, ministries spent around €25,000 per month on Facebook boosts alone (€1.2 million in a 55-month period), between March 2013 and September 2017. This was done at a time when very few ministries had their own Facebook pages, so the bulk of the spend was likely to have been done on ministers’ personal Facebook pages.
Do you think ministers should declare their Facebook spending?