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Security Service increases social media monitoring

On the lookout for 'jihadist' declarations

The MSS monitors social media for jihadist declarations and links between Maltese residents and the Islamic State. Photo: Shutterstock

The MSS monitors social media for jihadist declarations and links between Maltese residents and the Islamic State. Photo: Shutterstock

Malta’s Security Service (MSS) has stepped up the monitoring of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to identify “jihadist declarations” that could constitute a threat to national security, the agency said in its annual report.

Tabled in Parliament last week, the report for 2016 said the importance of the internet, particularly social media, was given a lot of attention. A lot of work had been done when it came to monitoring persons of interest, the MSS said.

The MSS said it also monitored social media for any connection between Maltese residents and the Islamic State.

It said the situation in Libya continued to be monitored closely, particularly given the large Libyan community in Malta

Such monitoring was done by officials in the security section with the help of information received from foreign security agencies, it said.

The MSS said it had continued to combat drug importation and trafficking, irregular immigration, contraband imports, criminal organisations and other illicit activities which endangered national security.

It said the situation in Libya continued to be monitored closely, particularly given the large Libyan community in Malta. A lot of work was done by the MSS security section concerning both the Libyan and Syrian communities in Malta, the annual report stated.

Although the situation in Libya worsened in 2016, it did not appear that the situation was reflected in Malta’s Libyan community, the MSS said, noting that many of the Libyans living in Malta appear to have integrated with the Maltese community.

Systematic searches of the vehicles and passengers arriving from Italy via catamaran ... was a huge challenge for the agency

The Security Service said it was important for its officials to be given the necessary training and experience to specialise in counter-terrorism.

Suspects were often involved in other criminal activities like illegal immigration, drug trafficking and fuel smuggling. The MSS said it cooperated closely with the police in this regard.

The report said that the Muslim community and various prayer centres across Malta also fell under the security service’s area of responsibility.

In 2016, the MSS helped the police, AFM and customs in a number of drug and contraband busts.

It also halted a shipment of a “small quantity of arms” found aboard a ship in the Grand Harbour that had just arrived from Libya.

The MSS “noted” its limitations with regard to systematic searches of the vehicles and passengers arriving from Italy via catamaran, which was a huge challenge for the agency.

On legal phone intercepts, the MSS said it took measures to ensure transparency in order to prevent abuse.

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