Hate Speech and Disinformation Fuel Digital Rights Abuses in Balkans

The Western Balkans has faced ongoing political tensions and "culture wars" that have migrated from the physical world to the digital space, leading to human rights violations in digital environments.

BIRN's latest annual report, "Distorting the Truth: Hate Speech and Disinformation Fuel Digital Rights Abuses in the Balkans," covers digital rights in eight countries of the region, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, plus Hungary.

From September 1, 2021, to August 31, 2022, BIRN documented 782 digital rights violations in our database. The breakdown of these cases is: Bosnia and Herzegovina (77 cases), Croatia (70), Hungary (146), Kosovo (89), North Macedonia (83), Montenegro (65), Romania (128) and Serbia (124) recorded by the SHARE Foundation.

The report highlights that human rights violations in fragile democracies differ in type, nature, scope, and target, which, combined with rapidly changing technology, has led to violations of human rights in digital environments. Journalists, public officials, human rights activists and the public face different attacks online, including smear campaigns, trolling, and hate speech.

Identifying key trends in digital rights violations, the report warns against the spread of digital rights violations in the region. More robust accountability measures are needed to address these issues, and promoting the responsible exercise of freedom of speech in both online and offline domains is crucial.

BIRN's goal is to equip policymakers, civil society organizations and citizens with the tools needed to safeguard digital rights now and in the future. The report presents recommendations for policymakers, regional regulators, media and technology entities...

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