Lazarevic: Instead of dealing with journalism, we are dealing with fake news and fighting for security

Beograd je naš grad
Foto: Printscreen Fejsbuk stranice

Translation provided by KoSSev.

Who is standing behind the social networks profiles exclusively devoted to attacking opposition politicians and the media that are critical towards the government? Anonymity on the Internet makes finding an answer to this question impossible while simultaneously increasing the number of pages dedicated to fake news and hate speech campaigns.

Facebook page “Zemun je nas grad” (Zemun is our City) initially just shared beautiful photos and motivational messages. It changed its name and content at the beginning of the year, turning into a bulletin board for attacks on opposition leaders and independent media. The latest target is the KoSSev portal, which was accused of being Albanian propaganda, prompting the editor to request a reaction from the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

„It is very scandalous and it clearly shows the depth of the social crisis in Serbia. I am personally very sensitive to any kind of social injustice and fake news. The fact that we are wasting our energy on dealing with fake news and fighting for security, instead of dealing with daily journalism, irritates me,“ KoSSev editor Tatjana Lazarevic stated.

The page „Belgrade is our city“ sponsors its posts in order to be more visible to a large number of citizens, regardless of whether they follow the page or not. All sponsored posts that have been published in the last two days, and the logo of the page, as well as the content, are very similar to those that were shared on the page „Serbia our country“ – which no longer exists.

A link to the domain of the Serbian version of the site Breitbart was displayed on this page. This site caught the public’s eye with fake news during the presidential campaign in America and its president Steve Bannon became the White House’s chief strategist after Donald Tramp’s inauguration.

Experts say that its model of fake news promotion is copied by a large number of pages around the world, which makes the question whether Breitbart came to Serbia far less important than the question – who is benefiting from these posts?

„It’s absolutely irrelevant whether it’s the real Breitbart or not. In the professional community, this kind of operations are called ‘psychological operations’, when social networks, or new technologies, are used to create some kind of public opinion which is not mere information, but which contains some elements of propaganda,“ Andrej Petrovski from the Share Foundation said.

This propaganda is conducted anonymously, which makes it very difficult to find the instigator and financier of campaigns that often involve targeting and hate speech. This problem is not unique to Serbia, says Petrovski, underlining that governments around the world are actively fighting against disinformation and attacks on the Internet, while the protection in Serbia is practically non-existent.

„The only thing that you can do in practice is to report it to that platform, which would then eventually react and remove content that is explicit hate speech or something that is not appropriate or inconsistent with the policies of using that social network,“ said Petrovski.

After intense pressure from the public, Facebook, YouTube and other social networks have recently started paying more attention to fighting against fake news and the targeting of individuals, however, a magic solution to remove such content from the Internet still does not exist.

You can watch the video report here.




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