Groups across Serbia, Hungary and North Macedonia experienced a flare-up in online attacks in the first half of September, with attackers focussing on ethnic minorities and the LGBT community.
According to investigators with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), countries throughout the region reported a number of hacker attacks and incidents of online fraud over the past month. The scale of the damage remains critically underreported, and authorities ill-equipped to prevent or prosecute these attacks.
On 1 September, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and his sons reported receiving death threats via Instagram. A 47-year-old man from Zrenjanin was arrested in connection with the threats, and was placed in pre-trial detention for 48 hours.
On 6 September, a misleading video aimed at a Hungarian MEP began circulating on Facebook. The video claimed to show a band playing a concert in the Parliamentary Assembly building of the Council of Europe, with EU politicians “celebrating their salaries” to “Jewish music.”
In another incident on 8 September, a photo circulated in online Hungarian communities purportedly showing former Estonian president and activist Mikk Pärnits wearing a women’s pink dress. The image was originally sourced from a 2020 awards ceremony, where the winner wore a women’s dress to raise awareness about domestic violence and sexual abuse.
Investigators found the most incidents to have taken place out of North Macedonia. A photomontage of the former Finance Minister Nina Angelovska was published on Twitter on 2 September, showing Angelovska with a penis-shaped cake.
On 9 September, an incident saw the former Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev insulted on Facebook. Facebook users employed offensive language to describe Zaev, including “Smelly”, “Idiot”, “Shit traitor”, “Traitor soul”, and, “Crazy monster, the only option for you is a knife or a razor and be cut piece by piece.”
North Macedonia’s Albanian and Roma communities also reported repeated online attacks online. In one incident on 2 September, a Twitter user addressed the Albanian minority as “Shiptars, hippers, who don’t pay electricity, don’t pay, will some cheap electricity be able to boil beans for us on Friday?”
Between 16 and 18 September, a number of incidents fueled by sexism and ethnic hatred took place online. While sharing a headline regarding the appointment of ambassadors from North Macedonia, one Twitter user wrote, “Shiptars are messing with the whole country” and referred to “servants of the Shiptar mafia”.
“Shiptar” is an insulting term for Albanians.
Image via Pixabay