March 26, 2024

We stayed at home for most of this and last year and, despite the fast development of vaccines, we’re still living with the COVID-19 pandemic.

This also meant we spent a lot of screen hours on smart phones. As a result, most social media platforms saw a rise in the number of users and overall engagement, with the biggest jump seen on TikTok. The video-sharing app engaged more than 100 million users globally during the pandemic and has become increasingly popular in South-eastern Europe.

But TikTok was used not only to find cake recipes or make-up tutorials but also to spread hate, threats, anti-LGBT messages and anti-vaccine conspiracy theories.

Some LGBT+ activists reported cases to both the relevant authorities and TikTok, but in most cases no one was held accountable for abuses, our annual digital rights monitoring shows.

From August 2020 until August 2021, we recorded almost 800 cases of digital rights violations in eight countries of Central and South-eastern Europe: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Hungary, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania and Serbia.

Violations took place not just on TikTok, but also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and were also spread via Viber and WhatsApp.

Our report, “Online intimidation: Controlling the narrative in the Balkans”, shows that vulnerable groups, including women, minority groups, LGBT +, Roma and Jewish communities, and minors and migrants, are particularly exposed to online attacks.

Similarly, political and…

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