The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Social Media in Slovenia

Slovenia is a small and young country. Nevertheless, it was quick with setting up the internet. The first IP connection was established in 1991 and just two years later, the first Slovenian web server was set up with a simple website describing the country. Soon after, links to other Slovenian web sites were added and the initial web page turned into a popular search engine.

Slovenians were also quick to adopt social media. Initially, MySpacewas one of the most visited websites in the country. In 2009, Facebook took over and remains the most popular social media platform among Slovenians.

On October 16th, 2018, XLAB gathered around 30 participants from LEAs, government, academia, industry, and media, to discuss the relationship between social media and public security in Slovenia. The main goal of the event was to capture the current state, to identify the challenges to be tackled, and to influence the change for the better.

The event kicked off with Jolanda Modic (XLAB) making a brief presentation of the project and its viewpoints (the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly). Afterwards, Anže Žitnik (XLAB) presented good, bad, and ugly practices from abroad in the context of social media and public security.

The first guest speaker, Alojz Sladič (The Slovenian Police), focused on the Goodand presented how social media has altered communication activities and daily operations of The Slovenian Police. All police divisions across the country have social media accounts, which are maintained 24/7 and used for communication, education, and interaction with citizens.

Mr. Sladič presented three different cases where social media played a critical role in helping The Slovenian Police with their investigations and saving lives. Mr. Sladič outlined that The Slovenian Police tries to do their best to protect citizens not only on the streets but also in the virtual world.

Focusing on the bad, Gorazd Božič (SI-CERT, ARNES), gave a presentation about scams on Facebook. SI-CERT established a project Varni na internetuwith the goal to inform individuals about staying safe online. SI-CERT also runs annual awareness campaigns with celebrities from Slovenia, so that the conveyed messages have large outreach and impact. Unfortunately, fake online shops with fake items, vouchers, and prize contests still find naïve customers in Slovenia. Mr. Božič revealed that victims of such frauds most often remain powerless because “the cost of investigative mechanisms is usually higher than the damage caused.”

When talking about future challenges to overcome, Mr. Božič identified the question of jurisdiction as the most critical problem to solve. Tomislav Omejec (The Slovenian Police) added the need for improved legal framework and Domen Savič (Citizen D) added the need for a better adjustment of prosecution.

We are in a difficult position today, because we live in two completely different worlds. Our primary world is real, material, concrete. It has physical borders, rules, and defined consequences for wrongdoings. But then there is our virtual world, where social platforms reside. This world is abstract, intangible, complex. It has no borders, no clear rules about what is acceptable, right, wrong or illegal. Where on the internet does the jurisdiction of one country end and of another one begins?

What can police do if an individual makes direct life threats to someone on Facebook? Not much, at least not in Slovenia. Hate speech online, which cannot be linked to a real crime offline, is not a crime, even though it is hate speech in public. This is because the definition of public space is connected to the material world and does not apply to the internet. What is public space online? What is public space on social media? The technology evolved, rules about its use should too.

When crimes occur on social media, CERTs and/or LEAs need support from social media providers to solve them. Which, for organisations like SI-CERT and The Slovenian Police coming from a small country isn’t simple. Unless a crime is related to child pornography or intellectual property rights, companies like Facebook hardly twitch to requests from Slovenia, underlined Tina Kraigher Mišič (Info House, Law Firm Pirc Musar & Lemut Strle).

Finally, Lija L. Miljavec (Faculty of Social Sciencesand Spletno oko) focused on the “ugly, unsuitable, unacceptable, and illegal side of social media” – the sexual abuse of children and adolescents on social networks. Ms. Miljavec described different ways of sexual abuse on social media and outlined the work done by several organisations and initiatives in Slovenia that help fight sexual abuse on social media.

When children become victims of sexual abuse on social media, they end up in a particularly difficult situation because they “get blamed, ridiculed, stigmatised,” as outlined by Andreja Verovšek (Med.Over.Net). Marko Puschner (Faculty of Social Sciencesand Safe.si) stressed that “it’s parents’ job to teach children about safe use of technology, mobile phones, internet, and social networks”.Since parents give their kids smartphones with internet, they should be the ones that teach them how to stay safe online. But parents to today’s teenagers grew up without mobile devices, without internet, without social networks. How can such parents understand, let alone explain all the threats of social media?

Social media has tremendous implications for public security. To ensure efficient and effective use of social media for preventing and fighting modern crimes, several action points await, the critical ones being improving the education system, continuously raising awareness, and adjusting the prosecution framework to the technological evolution. Unfortunately, these will take time, whereas you can become part of the change for the better tomorrow today, by starting the discussion about the responsible use of social media.

Jolanda Modic

XLAB

@xlab_si

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