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Pulitzer-winning Malta journalist, Matthew Caruana Galizia, has had his Facebook account suspended after posting allegations of corruption against Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his associates.
Caruana Galizia took to Facebook on 7 May after accepting that print journalism was not reaching the youth of Malta. In a series of four posts, coupled with the hashtags #FattiKorrotti and #CorruptionFacts, he alleged that the Prime Minister and his wife were receiving payments from an offshore shell company.
The posts were a hit, and were shared more than 1000 times (Malta’s population sits around 431 333). But just three days later, Muscat threatened to sue for libel, and on 16 May Caruana Galizia lost access to his account, and several posts were deleted.
This censorship comes at a time when Facebook’s role in handling its content is heavily questioned. Just last week, a court ruled that Facebook was not at fault for Palestinian terrorist attacks organised on the platform, and that it didn’t need to suspend those accounts. Last year, it was said to sway the US election with its unchecked spread of “fake news” — and it may just do the same for Malta, whose elections are being held 3 June.
Galizia has had his Facebook account suspended after posting allegations of corruption against Malta PM Joseph Muscat
Facebook is currently “investigating” why Caruana Galizia’s posts were removed. A theory is that it violated the community standard barring the spread of personal information without consent, but The Guardian points out that posts including driver’s licenses and passports from the Panama Papers (with which Caruana Galizia was involved) were left up.
In fact, in October last year, Facebook amended its policies on removal to consider whether the posts were newsworthy or of public interest — something that Caruana Galizia’s supported allegations certainly are.
In a statement to The Guardian, Facebook claimed that if it finds errors in the deletion, it will rectify them. The company has just under two weeks to rectify any errors, before the Maltese population take to the polls for the future of their country and after that it may not matter.
Featured image: John Haslam via Flickr (CC 2.0, resized)