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The Impact of Digital Platforms and Social Media on Freedom of Expression and Pluralism
2021.11.17. @ 15:30 - 19:00
The Conference was organized by Professor Sanja Savčić, Novi Sad Faculty of Law, researcher of the Central European Professor’s Network.
The conference that was planned and organized as a dissemination event of the research carried out within the framework of the Central European Professors’ Network coordinated by the Ferenc Mádl Institute of Comparative Law gathered master and doctoral students to discuss various relevant issues concerning social media, freedom of expression and its restrictions in democratic societies. This conference focused on young scientist, whose approach could be considered of relevance in the context of digital platforms and social media.
The format of the conference consisted of fourteen 10 minutes presentations given by students from five different countries: Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Poland and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In Organizing Committee were: Sanja Savčić, associate professor at Faculty of Law of University of Novi Sad (head of committee), Ede János Szilágyi, Ph.D., full professor, University of Miskolc, Faculty of Law, Hungary, Zoltán Nagy, Ph.D., full professor, University of Miskolc, Faculty of Law, Hungary, Emőd Veress, Ph.D., full professor, Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania, Faculty of Sciences and Arts, Romania, Davor Derencinovic, full professor, University of Zagreb, Croatia, Neda Zdraveva, Associate Professor, Institute for Civil Law, Iustinianus Primus Law Faculty, Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, Macedonia, Dušan Popović, full professor, University of Belgrade, Faculty of Law, Serbia, Attila Dudás, Associate Professor, University of Novi Sad, Faculty of Law, Serbia, Svjetlana Ivanović, assistant professor, University of East Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Marcin Wielec, Director of the Institute of Justice in Warsaw and Head of the Department of Criminal Procedure at the Faculty of Law and Administration of the Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw, Poland, Bartłomiej Oręziak, Coordinator of the Institute of Justice in Warsaw’s Center for Strategic Analysis, Poland.
Moderator of the conference was professor Sanja Savčić, who opened the conference as well.
The conference was divided into two panels. First one was focused on the students from Balkan view on the impact of digital platforms and social media on freedom of expression and pluralism
Aleksandra Toroman, phd student of University of Novi Sad, Faculty of Law and master student of Berlin School of Economic and Law, spoke on “Freedom of Expression on the Internet in the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights”. Toroman presented the most cited cases of ECHR and point out her own opinion, which is in line with common attitude to the need to protect human rights.
Bojana Spajić, phd student of University of Novi Sad, Faculty of Law, in her speech entitled “Trademarks and freedom of expression in social media”, analysed freedom of expression from the trade law aspects, in particular Intellectual Property law. She recognised the fact that protection of trademark is very efficient and in some cases more efficient than it is case with human rights. Mechanism that is on rightholder’s disposal is frequently used in practice, and very often was unjustified.
Mina Sremčev, PhD student of University of Novi Sad, has got very interesting presentation on „Freedom of Expression and information vs. Fake News (on social networks)“. Sremčev explained that fake news as such are not explicitly regulated by law, but there are possibility to prevent and punish misinformation if that news harm human rights or other public interests.
Dimitrije Đukić, PhD student at the University of Novi Sad, Faculty of Law and attorney at law in Novi Sad, presented on “Freedom of expression v. Content Moderation on social media” and explained his approach to the need to find proper balance between these two confronted, but complementary issues.
Jelena Radmanović, PhD student at the University of Novi Sad, Faculty of Law, analysed „Limiting the Freedom of Speech via Social Networks as a Mean for Prevention of International Crimes“. Radmanovic introduced some of well-known cases in regards to impact of internet communication in organizing and comitment of the crimes and highlight the relevance of limitations of the human rights in order to prevent crimes.
Nadežda Drašković, master student of University of East Sarajevo, Faculty of Law, Bosnia and Herzegovina, presented on “Defamation according to legal regulations and judicial practice in Bosnia and Herzegovina”, whose conclusion that criteria in finding balance between freedom of expression and its restrictions are in line with European is of relevance, since Draskovic has got in focus the situation in the state in which live citizens of different religions, who were in war during 90’s.
Second panel was dedicated to views of students from EU Countries on the impact of digital platforms and social media on freedom of expression and pluralism.
Petra Šprem and Andrej Božinovski, Assistants from University of Zagreb, Faculty of Law, Croatia, presented on “Protection Free Speech in the Age of Algorithms and the Delicate Balance within the Rule of Law”. In their joint presentation was explained the main technological aspect of the problem of digital communication and its consequence on the freedom of expression as well as legal means in combat against unlawful exchange of information.
Julia Starybrat, student of law and member of the Scientific Circle of Criminal Procedural Law at the Faculty of Law and Administration of the Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw, Poland, spoke on “Apparent anonymity in cyberspace – legal regulations”. This is an extremely important topic due to the changes taking place in today’s world in particular due to the progressive digitalization. Therefore, in this paper the author will indicate what affects the feeling of impunity and anonymity in cyberspace? The analysis will focus on the legal regulations concerning the consequences of improper behavior in public space, such as the Internet, in the light of the Polish criminal and civil codes. The concept of “hate speech” will be defined and, based on statistical data, the scale of intensification and spread of this phenomenon will be assessed. How it may affect the willingness to express one’s views and thus the normatively guaranteed freedom of speech – seen through the prism of the European Court of Human Rights.
M.Sc. Klaudia Łuniewska – polish lawyer, a graduate of law at the Faculty of Law and Administration of the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw, Poland, presented on “OSINT from the perspective of the functioning of social media and digital platforms”. Open-source intelligence (OSINT) is based on obtaining information on the basis of open and available sources, including virtual ones, as exemplified by social media and digital platforms. Open sources of information are used by intelligence services, business intelligence agencies, detective agencies, enterprises and other entities. Legality is a characteristic feature of open sources of information. Data obtained with the help of white intelligence are public and easily accessible. Thanks to technological progress and the continuous development of IT infrastructure, open sources of information have an increasing impact on the global reality, which is also due to the development of social media and digital platforms. The Internet has contributed to the growth of information exchange, increased users’ communication skills, but also has created many threats to their privacy and security, as well as the internal security of the state. Users are often unaware of the consequences of the content they post on the Internet. Social media and digital platforms can be used to spread fake news, but also to communicate between cybercriminals, including terrorist organizations. Many users are unaware of the purposes for which the information they themselves may be used and how they can act against them. It is commonly believed that the Internet is a place where there is no privacy, and content shared once, will never be completely removed from cyberspace and may be further distributed. Cybersurveillance is becoming a more and more serious problem. It is estimated that most of the information gathered by intelligence services comes from publicly available sources of information, including social media. Users are not aware of the threats in cyberspace, which is the result of insufficient knowledge and education in the field of information security. Users of social media and digital platforms put themselves at risk of surveillance and use of information they share about themselves. Internet users share their private data on social networks or digital platforms, such as education, current place of residence, friends, interests, thanks to which they themselves provide information about themselves to intelligence services or private entities, which on this basis can create their profiles personality or networks of connections with other persons or entities. Based on the content posted on the Internet, it is possible to create databases that can then be resold or used by intelligence services, business intelligence agencies, entrepreneurs or other entities. On the basis of information made available on social networks, it is possible to define the profile of a given person and predict their behavior as a consumer or voter. OSINT can be used to research social opinion and user behavior. It is indicated that most of the information obtained by secret services comes mainly from open sources of information, including social media and digital platforms. From photos and files posted by users, it is possible to obtain metadata that provide additional information about the user and the circumstances of the creation of a given photo or file, e.g. it is possible to determine the place where the photo was taken.
Ádám Pál, Ph.D. student, University of Miskolc, Faculty of Law, Deák Ferenc Doctoral School, presented on “Violation of the Freedom of Expression in the Social Media – Regulation Proposal in Czechia”. In his observation, it was taken into account actual laws and actual problems in regards to freedom of expression in the digital environment, as well as proposed regulation in Czechia.
Ivan Jokanović, Ph.D. student, University of Miskolc, Faculty of Law, Deák Ferenc Doctoral School, in his presentation “Social Media – regulation and polarisation”, expressed his observation on the problem of putting freedom of speech and social media in polarised context.
Álmos Ungvári, Doctoral School of Law and Political Sciences, Pázmány Péter Catholic University in Budapest, put the topic of the conference in very interesting and actual context. His speech entitled “Scaremongering in Times of Coronavirus Pandemic” highlight the hard consequences of the unlimited freedom of speech which have been appeared during the actual coronavirus pandemic.
László Dornfeld, PhD student at Ferenc Deák Doctoral School of Law, University of Miskolc, spoke on “The Liability of Online Media Providers and Social Media”. This topic has been considered of importance, since internet communication is not possible without the providers. In this respect, he explain the reason why this issues could be treated as great problem as well as great solution. From one side, providers are usually foreign persons, out of range of national law, and naturally not very interested in protecting public interest which could be in contrast to their profits. From the other side, those persons are the first address in combat against misuse of social media and digital platforms.
János Szinek, PhD student at Ferenc Deák Doctoral School of Law, University of Miskolc, trying to answer “Is it Possible to Regulate Fake News and Deep Fake in Social Media?” analysed all relevant provisions and legal means in relation to fake news and deep fake. He concluded that fake news are not recognised as such, but it could be cured under different aspects of law system, if they are harmful.
Having in mind previously mentioned topics and participants, it could be concluded that the conference focused on the concept of responsibility for jeopardizing freedom of speech using electronic media and in particular the user-generated content, but even more responsibility of misuse and abuse of the freedom of expression.
The specific aspect of abuse in cyberspace is the phenomenon of discrimination on social media and networks. There are numerous examples of using speech that does not enjoy protection under article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The jurisprudence of domestic courts and the European Court of Human rights confirm elements of a legitimate aim and proportionality principle in restricting the speech that, without having any function in a democratic society, causes harm to others. The conclusions take into account the different rules on the question who is reliable for misuse and abuse freedom of speech on the internet, what should injured party has to do in order to achieve protection and what does the state has to do with same aim.
Conference was very constructive and inspirative both for students and professors. Participants agreed that topic of the conference was attractive, with a lot of open questions in all areas of law. Moreover, the question of the impact of social media and social networks on the freedom of expression and pluralism nowadays is in the center of legal thoughts.
Note: The webinar was planned and organized as a dissemination event of the research carried out within the framework of the Central European Professors’ Network coordinated by the Ferenc Mádl Institute of Comparative Law.