The police have confirmed they will prosecute a person in connection with the online harassment directed at a Maltese activist in retaliation for her having protested in London against Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.
A police spokesperson confirmed with Lovin Malta that charges have been issued against a person but declined to give further details as the charges have not yet been read out in court.
Tina Urso, from the protest group Il-Kenniesa, was viciously targeted on Facebook last April after she took part in a protest against Muscat outside a London conference organised by Henley & Partners. A meme falsely quoting Urso as saying she hated Malta, Labour and the Prime Minister’s family spread online and people responded by flooding the activist’s Facebook page with derogatory comments and by spreading her personal details, including her address and ID card.
Amongst the critics was Valletta 2018 Mario Philip Azzopardi, who called Urso a bitch after seeing the meme but later apologised for having fallen victim to “fake news”.
Urso responded by filing police reports against five Facebook profiles, three real ones and two anonymous ones, for harassment, stalking and for causing her to fear that violence would be used against her – aggravated or motivated on the grounds of her political opinion.
“My Facebook account was flooded with notifications, people sharing everything about me, manipulating photos taken from my profile,” the activist said about the experience. “It was just insane what they were able to do in just a few hours.”
This meme, with an incendiary quote falsely attributed to Tina Urso, went viral
Two months ago, Urso’s lawyer Carla Camilleri confirmed the police have informed her they had requested Facebook’s help in identifying the people behind the two anonymous profiles.
Contacted by this website, both Urso and Camilleri confirmed the police have not informed them of any charges issued in connection with the case.
Urso’s case was recently included in a report on state-sponsored online trolling by the California-based think tank Institute for the Future.
“Tina Urso went to bed on April 21 pleased with the small protest she helped organize in London around the visit of Malta’s prime minister,” the report reads. “She wanted to call attention to the country’s unusual practice of selling passports to foreigners and the money laundering it has engendered. By the time she woke up, her Facebook feed was deluged with threats of violence and misogynist insults, including the false charge that she ran an escort service. Researchers concluded the attacks were coordinated through private Facebook groups administered by government employees and officials of Malta’s ruling Labour Party. Participants would eventually publish her parents’ address, as well as her confidential National ID card number.”