The Nationalist Party’s very own version of the ‘online troll factory’ has started coming out in the open after one of Adrian Delia’s associates, Julian Micallef, was accused of running a network of fake Facebook profiles to undermine the PN leader’s internal critics.
However, Delia denied having any knowledge of such a network, stating that he never created a fake profile, asked anyone to create a fake profile or found out of fake profiles owned by people within the party.
“I’m conscious that a lot of people have fake profiles, but because they’re fake, then by definition I don’t know which of the hundreds or thousands of fake profiles belong to who,” he told Lovin Malta.
“What I do know is that one of the issues the PN has discussed recently is how social media has harmed the party and how we need specific rules and regulations for people in the party.”
In terms of the scope of its astroturfing operation, the PN’s ‘troll factory’ doesn’t appear to stand up to the famous Trolls from Olgino, but its implications are nevertheless severe for a party which is publicly giving off the impression that it wants to build bridges with its critics.
A letter signed by one of Delia’s former canvassers was leaked to WhatsApp this morning. Although the letter was addressed to Delia, it never formally reached the PN leader’s desk.
In it, the canvasser said that Julian Micallef, an associate of Delia, had asked him to create ten fake Facebook profiles, which Micallef would then use to attack and insult certain PN MPs and candidates.
Micallef has denied having anything to do with the fake profile network.
Only one of the ten profiles mentioned in the letter appears to still be active on Facebook, a profile called ‘John Formosa’ without a profile or cover photo, which last published something on its way in January.
The fake profile frequently expressed support for Delia and distaste for his predecessor Simon Busuttil, the late Daphne Caruana Galizia and the pressure group Occupy Justice.
After activists laid flowers for the slain journalist at the Great Siege Memorial, ‘John Formosa’ urged the police to “arrest that thrash, starting with Kristina [Chetcuti] and her poodle Simon [Busuttil].”
Charlie Mangion, a former canvasser of Busuttil, has expressed his delight at the leak.
“Well done to whoever took the decision for this man to stay away from Dar Ċentrali,” he said, sharing a photo of Julian Micallef. “We have started seeing the power wash in play.”
In the leaked letter, the canvasser also claimed that Micallef had instructed him to stalk Delia’s wife Nickie Vella de Fremeaux, who commenced separation proceedings with her husband earlier this year.
Micallef denied this accusation and Delia described it as “beyond distasteful”.
“It’s sad that I’m once again seeing stories in the media which mention my family, and I think it’s beyond distasteful,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are those who want to drag my family into politics, but I’ll fight these attempts with all my might.”