10 years of the Croatian Personal Data Protection Agency marked by condemnation of hate speech on internet
The Conference organized by the Croatian DPA held on 7th May 2014 in the Croatian Parliament in the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Agency warned of one negative and extremely dangerous trend which is the speech of hate on internet.
Referring to that problem, Deputy Director of the Croatian DPA Mrs. Dubravka Dolenc pointed out that it is unacceptable to wrap in the freedom of speech something that consists of insulting and whose only purpose is humiliation of others. She warned that facebook profiles which publish the photos of individuals without their approval followed with inappropriate and vulgar comments which collect fans as it was once with badges and marbles are a malignant disease of each society. She pointed out that not to condemn and sanction such behavior means to encourage and participate in it. At the end she concluded that responsibility is not an individual but rather a collective matter.
From the point of view of the Ministry of the Interior spoke its Deputy Minister Mr. Evelin Tonković who warned that a strong rise has been noted of the complaints related to the violation of rights on internet: in only 4 months there had been as much as 272 complaints, almost exclusively related to facebook. These complaints had been registered through the “Red Button” – the application for report of virtual abuse.
Project Manager for Research and Development of E-learning in CARNet (The Croatian Academic and Research Network), Mrs. Renata Ivanković emphasized the necessity of investing constant efforts in the digital literacy of the whole society especially those who carry out educational roles (teacher, parents etc.). She also called for collective responsibility in preventing digital violation which ultimately gained lots of “popularity” amongst scholars.
The President of the Croatian Journalist Society Mr. Zdenko Duka questioned in his discourse whether the society which is not able to severely punish the discriminatory outrages of individuals could have any future at all. He also pointed out that the criticism which serves as a control mechanism of the democracy should be clearly distinguished from hate speech.
However, the second part of the conference will be remembered as a very emotional one due to the personal testimonies of persons who experienced the violation on internet. First, a female person told the story when she herself became a victim of rather offensive and intimidating comments and likes of one hate group on facebook in the moment in which she was trying to block its activities.
After that even more shocking testimonies followed: two stories of the adolescents who were exposed to the cyber bullying of their peers. Due to the respect to their right to privacy their stories were read by Maja Vučić and Igor Mešin (Maja Vučić and Igor Mešin are celebrity persons well known in Croatia whom the Croatian DPA entitled to be its Ambassadors of privacy. Maja Vučić is a famous singer and Igor Mešin is actor and tv presenter.). The testimonies were so painful for everyone on the conference so that in the last moment the singing of Gabi Novak and Đani Stipaničev had been cancelled although it had been previously arranged in the program scheme. Gabi Novak and Đani Stipaničev (also Ambassadors of privacy) later stated they were both deeply moved by the stories that they couldn’t reach the strenght for singing.
The conference ended with a speech of the newly elected director of the Agency, Mr. Anto Rajkovača, who presented himself to the public and due to the occasion consigned to the invitees software packages for privacy protection and social network security Titanium Maximum Security – gift from Trend Micro, one of the project sponsors.
As a part of this project the Agency produced an educational poster “10 steps against hate speech on internet” which can be downloaded from the home page of the Agency www.azop.hr. The Agency invited everyone to share the poster so that its tips and information may reach as many people as possible.
The Agency is especially grateful to all the companies who recognized this initiative which wouldn’t have happened without their financial and logistic support: Trend Micro – the world leader in IT security, Konzum – Croatian supermarket chain and Unex grupa – Croatian Agency for marketing and advertising.
Media sponsor of the event was Soundset group (the Croatian radio network) who recognized the importance of giving its media space to the messages that promote and protect privacy and human rights.