10:57 May. 4, 2016
Embassies of Finland and Sweden host titled "Trolls, hate speech and crowd censorship: Limits on press freedom" seminar in Estonia
The seminar, with opening remarks given by Finnish Ambassador Kirsti Narinen and closing remarks by Swedish Ambassador Anders Ljunggren, included three speakers: Finnish journalist Jessikka Aro, Estonian media expert and blogger Daniel Vaarik, and project manager of nonprofit "Institute of Law and Internet" Ängla Eklund. The speakers also took part in a half-hour panel discussion moderated by ERR.ee's Editor-in-Chief Rain Kooli.
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Themes of the seminar included the impact of aggressive online discussion on press freedom, the impact of internet "trolling" on targeted journalists, and the spread of crowd censorship and the potential threat it poses to freedom of speech and democracy.
Jessikka Aro discussed how her investigation into the phenomenon of pro-Russian online trolling quickly found her a target of online attacks and abuse herself, including international harassment, smear campaigns, and dissemination of her personal information.
Daniel Vaarik talked about the development of online discussion in Estonia, the concept of crowd censorship, and its impact on public discussion.
Ängla Eklund discussed how the issues of online harassment, freedom of speech and democratic society were related, citing among other factors the concern that current legislation in many countries remained unadapted to quickly-evolving modern technology and means of communication, which often left victims of online harassment and prosecuting authorities alike at a loss.
The event concluded with a panel discussion with the seminar's three speakers, which began with a brief debate on the possible ramifications of Estonian writer Kaur Kender's case, which went to trial on Monday (May 2), and wherein Kender was charged with the production of child pornography after publishing a short story about a pedophile which included graphic depictions of the sexual abuse of minors.
Also discussed were changes for the stricter in governments' attitudes towards online hate speech after years of passivity on the part of authorities, the need to balance freedom of speech with more effective legislation for the punishment of its abuse, including focus on preventive rather than only reactive action, the pitfalls of lack of awareness, understanding, and resources necessary for the prevention and prosecution of online crimes such as hate speech and harassment.