The Malta Independent 24 September 2023, Sunday
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TMID Editorial: It is never acceptable to threaten others

Tuesday, 14 March 2023, 10:54 Last update: about 7 months ago

Two news articles relating to online threats appeared in the news recently. 

Just last weekend, The Malta Independent on Sunday revealed that one of the first people to contract Covid-19 in Malta three years ago was sent “death threats” at the time. 

This again brings to the forefront the issues we see online in today’s world. There are no circumstances under which death threats are acceptable. This is just the latest in a very long line of situations involving hate speech and online threats that have been reported in Malta.

A photo this person had taken of a bar abroad was shared on social media, but then a rumour spread that it was taken in a bar in Malta. The crucial information proving that the photo was not taken in Malta, was removed and was not there on the images shared all over social media. “I was told that if I was ever seen in public I would be beaten. A guy told me that if any of his friends or his family contracted Covid that it would be my fault and that he would come after me. All my relatives and dead relatives were sworn at. Someone else wished that Covid would pass for everyone except me and that I would develop some sort of cancer in my throat,” the person said. 

Never, under any circumstances, is it acceptable to threaten somebody.

This newsroom had said it many times in the past. Social media has allowed the world to grow closer together, become better connected. But at the same time it can also result in hate speech, and even mob mentality if misused. When posting online, people need to be more careful. Words hurt and threats made are real. 

We have seen many situations where people were threatened online or became victims of hate speech over the years on Malta. From threats or hate speech against journalists, to politicians and activists, it is just not acceptable.

Recently, there was another incident of hate speech. President of NGO Repubblika Robert Aquilina filed a police report over hate speech after he was threatened on Facebook by someone who said that he deserves to have “a tin of acid thrown at him.”

Aquilina said that he was sent this threat following his protest outside the offices of former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

Perhaps harsher penalties need to start being dished out against those who threaten others online, in order to dissuade people from making them.

Those people who make such threats need to realise that, just because they are doing it from behind a screen, does not mean that their threats are any less serious.

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