Hate speech (1): Political bots spreads intolerance
To be able to change things completely, active involvement of the whole society is needed. Apart from educating new generations, it is necessary for the institutions to seriously understand this problem.
Written by: Bjanka Stankovikj
In the past, hate speech was only encountered in the streets by writing insulting symbols, graffiti, drawings, setting flags on fire, religious symbols, or distributing leaflets with content that incites hatred on any grounds.
But today, in the era of the Internet, this destructive activity takes place in an easier, simpler and more efficient way. Easily accessible platforms manage at incredible speed to spread this harmful information, and reactions from the tense people quickly surface.
We are witnessing an influx of publications, comments and replies on social networks that are often filled with hate speech based on ethnicity, political orientation, but there are also insults on other grounds. Additionally, current political and everyday developments only destroy emotions between people.
Social networks, besides allowing us quick communication, sharing news, pictures, music and announcements of any context, brought with them the by-products. With few clicks at any moment, we can become direct or indirect participants in some internet debate, which ends up as a quarrel followed by hate speech, threats, calling for violence, but also strengthening existing stereotypes and prejudices in the society.
INSTEAD OF DEBATE, AN INTERETHNIC HATE
The journalist Sunai Sabrioski believes that especially young people should realize that with personal insults and online quarrels they will not solve the problem. He points out that all ethnicities in Macedonia are the heart of the intercultural relations, which unfortunately in our country are perceived as negative. The biggest problem for Sabrioski is the different perception of the words, which leads to a clash of cultures. He says that, for the whole situation of today’s youth to be even more dramatic – technology enabled 24/7 hours of social network quarrels.
“We are eagerly awaiting some status, picture or video through which a two-way communication will be born automatically, accompanied by hate speech, humour, satire, sarcasm and discrimination. It starts with a like, and ends with a contradictory essay. You Roma, We Macedonians, They Albanians, Those are Serbs and Bulgarians, and so on, creating a mirror as a reflection of this entire like generation”– adds Sabrioski.
If people reacted violently for street graffiti and hate speech inscriptions, it seems that the same happens on Facebook and Twitter every day. Comments and user posts are deleted or reported, but it does not prevent the possibility that they might appear from another profile, usually anonymous or as we say “fake.”
Part of this problem are precisely these profiles and so-called Internet bots. This phenomenon is not missing in our country. It is typical for them that they often appear in moments of significant political events.
“Internet bot or only bot represents a brief description of an intelligent software robot. They often perform simple and structurally repetitive tasks, at a much higher rate than would be possible for human alone (clicks, writing comments, etc.), but they can also include artificial intelligence. Some of them are used for positive purposes such as search engine indexes, while many can be used with a negative goal and application, especially in political campaigns”
BOTS MAKE BIG DAMAGES IN DEMOCRATIC DEVELOPMENT
Bojan Kordalov, an expert on social media, says that in reality, bots can make confusion and reduce the relevance of certain debates. Their interference greatly damages the democratic development of societies.
“The harmful consequences of the bots in the political sense or in the political struggle are seen mainly in the intention to influence, i.e. to give support to a particular party for which they are given the direction to represent,” adds Kordalov.
“Figuratively speaking, the term bot is used for members of the Internet teams of political parties whose duty is to write comments in support of their parties and leaders on the online portals and social networks in an attempt to influence public opinion”
Experts believe that besides improving the practice of laws, it is necessary to create aware and digitally educated individuals who will win this battle. Kordalov says that all the negative phenomena of digitalization and computerization are developing at a high pace largely due to the lack of knowledge and skills.
Slavica Anastasovska, a lawyer from the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, adds that the most important thing is to work on raising people’s awareness.
“They express some attitude, some opinion that is problematic because it goes into hate speech, not freedom of expression. There is a limit between these two things and people need to be aware of where that limit is,” said Anastasovska.