Maltese police have confirmed they are investigating whether the recent spate of spoof websites and emails constitutes the crime of harassment.
Following the spoofs, which were reported to the police, Lovin Malta asked the police whether this action is illegal according to Malta’s cybercrime laws.
“Investigations into these websites were initiated by the Police since the initial assessment indicates that such actions constitutes the offence of harassment, amongst others which might result from the investigations,” a police spokesperson responded.
The police didn’t clarify whether the alleged harassment refers to the act of website spoofing itself or the content in the spoofs.
However, a legal source told Lovin Malta that they must be referring to the content as website spoofing isn’t a crime but an act that can be fought civilly by filing trademark infringement cases.
Police are empowered to order internet service providers to block access to spoof websites through the same legal framework that allows them to command the blocking of child pornography.
However, the source warned that this could be a risky avenue for the police to take in this case, citing how this had once been used by the state’s IT agency MITA to block access to Daphne Caruana Galizia’s blog at Mater Dei.
“Giving the police so much power is dangerous,” he warned. “My fear is that we’ll end up using this explosion of spoof websites to come up with some sort of law. If it’s a question of opinion, who am I to decide whether people read it or not?”
“Regulating fake news is so difficult and if we give the authorities this kind of power, we’ll really playing with fire.”
Following the spate of spoof attacks, Opposition leader Bernard Grech called for Malta’s cybercrime laws to be updated while Prime Minister Robert Abela asked the National Cybersecurity Committee to propose means to combat website spoofing.
Cover photo: Left: People attend a protest at Castille in light of the website spoofing
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