The new DFC Magazine issue brings the overview of conspiracy theories surrounding vaccination that are being spread by the media from the region, and which aim at compromising the credibility and trust of citizens in the work of health institutions and the process of immunization. With this Magazine, the guest of our column Interview on the occasion was Dr. Vuk Vukovic, Assistant Professor at Department of Production, Faculty of Dramatic Arts at the UCG. Dr. Vukovic discussed the topic of social media and empathized that only constant education can lead to a revolutionary shift. Likewise, the 28th Magazine issue covers alternative social media such as Parler and Gab, which have become a safe haven for extremists and supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump.

Download the PDF issue by clicking on the link or the photo below.

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Another Friday has come, together with the new edition of our weekly column On Friday Afternoon. As usual, we will start this week’s overview with the topics related to Montenegro.

One of the burning topics was the apprehension of two Serbian citizens and one Pljevlja inhabitant on the Rance crossing border. The police found 26,500 euros, laptops and Serbian flags in their possession. The Serbia-based news portals wrote that the apprehension occurred only because of the Serbian flags that, allegedly, happened to be there, while omitting the real reason behind the apprehension. That way, the key details of the story were omitted and the narrative on Serbs being endangered in Montenegro has been spread.

Besides this, looking for the culprit, or, identifying the author of a disputable caricature of the Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sports Vesna Bratic was in the spotlight this week as well, therefore, the social media decided to assume the role of a detective. There are two suspects, while none of them is the culprit. When the public was informed about this, it was already too late – the damage has been done. The DFC reacted in the context of this issue, but the active internet community actors in Montenegro such as the media, meme pages, activists, and key decision-makers need to help us ease the tensions and raise awareness of the importance of critical thinking and observing. Otherwise, it is just a matter of time when each of us will become a target.

Telegram application is still dominant among right-wing supporters and proved to be an excellent field for organization and initiation of coordinated actions on other social media. One of the examples is the group The Books of Knjige that was targeted by a right-wing Telegram group Nju Ejdž Četnici (New Age Chetniks) because they spoke about meme pages from Montenegro, admins’ identities, and those who allegedly finance them in their radio show from January 22. Members of this group received a link to the TBOK Facebook page with a task to act in coordination and spam with comments.

We are moving to Europe where the European Commission has told Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft to continue with their monthly reports on efforts to tackle fake news, especially on COVID-19, for another six months. The companies, together with TikTok and advertisers, have signed the European Union’s code of practice to tackle the spread of disinformation on their platforms and had to submit reports on their efforts during an initial six-month period. The European Commission said that the reports will continue for another six months because of their relevance during the virus pandemic.

Finally, here’s a friendly reminder to watch our final, fifth episode of the DFC podcast Under the Loupe. Our guest was Milivoje Pantovic, an independent investigative journalist based in Belgrade, with whom we discussed the Chinese propaganda during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pantovic specialized in the fields of interior and foreign policy and culture. He worked as a journalist and editor in Serbian news agencies Tanjug and Beta, the television B92 and BK, the newspaper Politika, and he is cooperating with numerous foreign media as well.

Publishing of an inappropriate caricature of Vesna Bratic, the acting Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sports, which is being spread on social media, provoked public anger for a reason.

Basic State Prosecutor’s Office in Podgorica file a case against John Doe for the offense that ridicules both the Minister and the State of Montenegro.

Discrediting, sexism, brutal attack on dignity, misogyny… those are just a couple of labels that numerous NGOs and public and political figures from Montenegro and the region utilized to rebuke this montage or caricature.

As the police have not identified the author of this debatable work yet, social media decided to assume the role of a detective. Led by emotions, the social media users could not wait for the Name to emerge. Two persons are suspects, but none of them is the culprit for this act. When the public was informed about this, it was already too late – the damage has been done.

Meme page Bestebe posted the name of the famous caricaturist Luka Lagator, without offering any proof for the claims. It did not take too long for the post to be shared, and the mass to become fervent. However, we did not expect an MP in the Montenegrin Parliament to publish this piece of disinformation and therefore contribute to its spreading online, damaging the reputation of a renowned Montenegrin artist from Cetinje. Marko Milacic, an MP in the Parliament of Montenegro and the President of the Prava Crna Gora party (True Montenegro), posted the following on his Facebook page, only eight minutes after the abovementioned meme page: This is not the first time for Luka Lagator, the author of the disgusting illustration of Minister Vesna Bratic to do something like this: When Miodrag Lekic was the presidential candidate, he illustrated him basically as a corpse. Shameless!

And even before Lagator had a chance to deny these claims, numerous threats, calling for lynching, and assaults on social media began. Due to the inappropriate comments, we will not quote them, but we believe that all of you came across at least one inappropriate post on the mentioned topic. The reasonable people that criticized the finger-pointing were the minority; therefore, they were powerless to influence further development of this event.

Luka Lagator said that he was horrified and speechless when he found out that MP Marko Milacic had posted on his Facebook a false claim that he was the author of the inappropriate and disgusting illustration that he scornfully reprimands, and which portrays Minister Bratic. He also announced a lawsuit against all of those who falsely accused him.

Another arbitrary claim

Three days later, almost the same situation occurred. Niksic inhabitant Nebojsa Kasalica was also targeted, but slightly more proof was offered. The alleged screenshots of a private Viber communication between Kasalica (allegedly the admin of one of the popular meme pages) and another unknown person appeared on social media. The screenshot reads that the author of the debatable illustration is known.

Kasalica denied that he had anything to do with the caricature and he was acquitted after having given the statement in the Police Station in Niksic and after the examination of his laptop and cellphone. He is also preparing the lawsuit against the persons spreading lies about him, as he wrote on Facebook.

Unfortunately, Viber correspondence that the unknown author set up in order to target Kasalica was a sufficient piece of evidence that initiated the attack on him, which the majority did not question.

However, it turned out later that it was easy to determine the truthfulness from the beginning. The photography of Kasalica, used in a montage, differs from his Viber profile picture that he has not changed for four years. Therefore, its author turned to be clumsy.

Both cases will receive a legal epilogue by filing a lawsuit and complaint, but this will not solve a deeply rooted problem of believing in anything that is launched on the internet.

For quite some time, the Digital Forensic Center has been trying to improve people’s understanding by raising awareness of the current internet phenomena, pointing out to the increasingly present issue of hate speech, finger-pointing, spreading disinformation, and other negative products of the modern digital era.

Active internet community actors in Montenegro such as the media, meme pages that became a significant factor, activists and key decision-makers need to help us ease the tensions and raise awareness of the importance of critical thinking and observing. Otherwise, it is just a matter of time when each of us will become a target. And if we keep up this pace, it is going to happen, very soon. There is no need to mention the implications that these events will have on the fragmentation of Montenegrin society.

The Under the Loop podcast represents a short video form of a conversation with the experts in certain fields, in order to raise awareness of disinformation, media literacy, and technologies.

In the final episode 005 of our pilot podcast, we are talking with Milivoje Pantovic, an independent investigative journalist based in Belgrade, about the Chinese propaganda during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He specialized in the fields of interior and foreign policy and culture. He worked as a journalist and editor in Serbian news agencies Tanjug and Beta, the television B92 and BK, the newspaper Politika, and he is cooperating with numerous foreign media as well.

What are the consequences of disinformation?

Watch the third video of the project Care before you share – Montenegro. The project has been supported by NATO Public Diplomacy Division with the goal to strengthen the resilience of our society to disinformation and hybrid threats.

Another Friday is here and it is time for another weekly column On Friday Afternoon. As usual, we begin this week’s overview with the events in Montenegro.

We posted episode 004 of our podcast Under the Loupe, in which we talked with Darko Brkan, the president of the civic association U.G. Zašto ne (CA Why not) and the editor of the fact-check portal Raskrinkavanje from Bosnia and Herzegovina. We touched on various topics including the fight of Bosnia and Herzegovina against disinformation, the characteristics of its media landscape, and what awaits us in the fake news sphere. Within the project Care before you share-Montenegro, this week we posted the last out of three informative videos, which you can watch on our official YouTube channel, as well as on the DFC website and our social media.

The DFC closely monitored this week’s disinformation and misleading media content. One such misleading piece of news appeared on the RTCG news on Sunday. The report showed citizens gathering in Bar to mark the cutting down of cypress trees two years ago. The picture from January 20020 was used as proof, but there was no explanation that it was an archival material. The RTCG also reported that the measures introduced to fight COVID-19 that are currently in force were breached during the gathering, which is true but still does not change the fact that the National Broadcaster is obliged to screen the current and authentic material.

Another news is that Health Minister Jelena Borovinic Bojovic said that Montenegro would receive large quantities of the Sinopharm vaccine at the end of January. Dr. Sergej Boljevic from the Sechenov University in Moscow, the first Montenegrin to receive both the first and second dose of the Sputnik V vaccine, said that Montenegro had been negotiating about the supply and that he was optimistic that it would be delivered soon to our country.

We end our weekly column with world news. Joe Biden was inaugurated as the President of the U.S. He quickly signed 17 executive orders at the White House. Among them are the orders annulling decisions of Donald Trump to withdraw from international agreements, such as the Paris Agreement and WHO.

Have a nice weekend!  

The Under the Loupe podcast represents a short video form of a conversation with the experts in certain fields, in order to raise awareness of disinformation, media literacy, and technologies.

In episode 004, we are talking with Darko Brkan, a friend and colleague, the president of U.G. Zašto ne (the Civic Association Why not) and the editor of the fact-check portal Raskrinkavanje.

Watch the video below to learn how Bosnia and Herzegovina fights against disinformation, what the characteristics of its media landscape are, and what awaits us in the fake news sphere.

On Friday afternoon is a new and short text form of the Digital Forensic Center, which we use to share significant and interesting news and events that marked a week behind us. We begin this week’s overview with the most significant news and events from our Center and Montenegro.

We published the first this year’s issue of the DFC Magazine which presents the retrospective of the influence of disinformation, narratives, and conspiracy theories on the political events in Montenegro during 2020. Recently, the independent experts analyzed the information environment in the six Western Balkan countries, for the purpose of the European Parliament. The DFC analyzed presented observations on Montenegro since the study is filled with vague information, one-sided conclusions, and inaccurate data. Besides that, we published the most significant messages of the participants on a panel discussion about disinformation at the 10th 2BS Forum, as well as the new DFC podcast Under the Loupe with Professor Bozena Jelusic having expressed her views on the media literacy situation in Montenegro.

Also, there is a new episode of the podcast Under the Loupe where we talked with Stefan Janjic, editor of the fact-check portal Fake News Tragač. Topics of this episode were the situation with media in Serbia as well as the negative influence of disinformation and fake news launched during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As always, the DFC was monitoring fake news and disinformation on social media and media in Montenegro and the region. At the beginning of the week, a fake public opinion survey on the support to the parties and coalitions in Niksic appeared on social media. As we are getting closer to the local election in that town, we are sure that this and similar material will be spread more frequently. Similar fake public opinion surveys appeared in the period before the parliamentary election in August last year.

Screenshot of the false public opinion survey conducted in Niksic

Besides this fake public opinion survey, the Serbia-based media and a couple of them from Montenegro launched a piece of fake news that the Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic is in the Kodra hospital due to his aggravated health condition, and that the party congress of the DFC, scheduled for January 23 is postponed. The DFC reacted promptly and informed the public that this is fake news.

Some of the headlines about the DPS congress postponement

Now, we are moving to the United States. The storming of Donald Trump’s supporters in Capitol Hill slowly reaches its epilogue. Donald Trump was impeached for the second time during his mandate, and a lot of his supporters who violently broke into Congress were arrested. Additionally, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube blocked his accounts. Besides, this week Twitter permanently suspended 70,000 accounts in connection with the QAnon movement that at the same time supports Trump, in order to prevent the violent usage of this social media. Those accounts were sharing dangerous content related to conspiracy theories to a great extent.

Also, social media Parler, very popular among conservative circles in the United States, was taken down since Amazon terminated its web hosting services. Amazon previously warned the company that it would lose access to its servers due to omissions in the policy towards violent content.

Have a nice weekend!

The Under the Loupe podcast represents a short video form of a conversation with the experts in certain fields, in order to raise awareness of disinformation, media literacy, and technologies.

In episode 003, we are talking with Stefan Janjic, the editor-in-chief of the fact-check portal Fake News Tragač, about the general situation concerning Serbia-based media and the negative influence of disinformation spread during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stefan Janjic obtained his Bachelor in Journalism in 2014 as the best student of the Faculty of Philosophy in Novi Sad. After that, he obtained his MA degree in the Communicology Department at the same Faculty and started the interdisciplinary doctoral studies in the field of Social Sciences and Humanities. He works as a teaching assistant at the Department of Media Studies at the Faculty of Philosophy in Novi Sad. He is the editor-in-chief of the fact-check portal Fake News Tragač. Janjic is a two-time winner of the Exceptional Award of the University of Novi Sad Senate for scientific work, winner of the Award of the Faculty of Philosophy in Novi Sad for the best young researcher in the field of social sciences, as well as the award Being and Language of the Radomir Konstantinovic Foundation.

The first of this year’s DFC Magazine issue brings the 2020 retrospective of the influence of disinformation, narratives, and conspiracy theories on political events in Montenegro. Recently, the independent experts analyzed the information environment in the six Western Balkan countries for the needs of the European Parliament. Given that their study contains imprecise information, one-sided conclusions, and incorrect data, the DFC analyzed the stated observations about Montenegro. Likewise, the new DFC Magazine issue presents the most important messages sent by participants during a panel discussion on disinformation within the tenth 2BS Forum, as well as the new DFC podcast Under the Loupe with professor Bozena Jelusic giving her perception on media literacy in Montenegro.

Download the PDF version by clicking on the link or the photo below.

Thank you for reading us!