Herself a victim of online abuse, Boldrini said in an interview with Buzzfeed that the “most worrying aspect is that fake news, whether it’s driven by profit or a political propaganda, is all too often an antechamber to hate”.
She referred to the murder of Jo Cox, an MP with the UK’s Labour party, a week before last June's referendum on the EU, saying that “in some cases…the line between online and offline violence becomes very thin”.
The number of Italian fake news sites has grown significantly since 2015, Michelangelo Coltelli, founder of Butac.it, a fact-checking website which highlights cases of fake news, told The Local.
“And the number of times these stories are then shared on social media has been phenomenal,” he said.
“In Italy there are sites used for political purposes, for disinformation, and those that make money through clickbait. Sadly I don’t think there’s a solution to this apart from education – it needs to start with schools teaching children the difference between fake news and real news.”
“Fake news isn’t a college prank, it causes real harm to people.”
— laura boldrini (@lauraboldrini) February 9, 2017
Gianni Riotta, an author and journalist at the Italian daily, La Stampa, told The Local: “It’s an old problem that has been made more pervasive by social media and while we’re approaching the fight against it, there is no magical solution.
Party leader Beppe Grillo denied the accusations, writing on his blog: “The M5S has its official social media accounts, its official site and blog. Other sites or social media accounts are not attributable to the M5S.”
In 2014, Boldrini accused the movement of instigating violence and slammed bloggers on the party's website as “potential rapists”, after a satirical post by Grillo sparked a flood of online sexual abuse against her.