The attack, known as a pharma hack, placed ads for an anti-impotence drug in the description of Fontana's official website when it appeared in Google search results.
The problem appeared to have been fixed by Monday afternoon. The minister's homepage itself was not affected.
— neXt quotidiano (@neXtquotidiano) June 4, 2018
An ally of Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and like him one of the right-wing populist League party's appointments to Italy's new cabinet, Fontana was already causing controversy after less than 24 hours in office.
A conservative Catholic, the newly appointed minister told an interviewer that same-sex parents “don't exist at the moment, as far as the law is concerned” and said he believed in “natural” families with one mother and one father. He also said that he would try to reduce the number of abortions carried out in Italy, including by giving doctors greater liberty to try and dissuade women from seeking them.
A Sicilian woman marches with a banner saying 'Free to choose'. Photo: Francesco Villa/AFP
Before becoming minister Fontana participated in anti-abortion rallies, including one at which he told the crowd that gay marriage, changing attitudes to gender and mass immigration were helping to “wipe out our community and our traditions”. He has expressed admiration for President Vladimir Putin's Russia, where the state outlaws the public defence of homosexuality and where hate crimes are rife, and said that European women should have more children.
While Salvini said that his ally's views were not reflected in the new government's programme, Fontana's comments drew a fierce response from rights activists, who responded with the hashtag “noi esistiamo” (“we exist”) on social media. Pop star Tiziano Ferro, who came out as gay eight years ago, wrote on Instagram that: “I don't want support, it would be enough for me to no longer feel invisible.”
Italy was one of the last Western nations to recognize civil unions between gay partners and offers them fewer legal rights than many of its European neighbours, including Catholic Portugal and Spain.
While Italy does not guarantee same-sex couples the right to jointly adopt children or stepchildren, in a landmark move this year, the city of Turin allowed children conceived by artificial insemination or surrogacy to be legally registered to both same-sex parents. Some local authorities have also recognized joint adoptions carried out abroad.
Meanwhile abortion has been legal in Italy for the past 40 years, but many women are still unable to access the procedure due to a clause that allows doctors to refuse to carry it out on the grounds of conscientious objection. According to health ministry figures, just over 70 percent of gynaecologists in Italy refuse to perform abortions, a rate that has risen over the past ten years.
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Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP