Why online violence is still unpunished (and 5 ideas to change course)

Why online violence is still unpunished (and 5 ideas to change course)

Hate speech runs unpunished on the web and social networks: from 2016 to 2021, 80% of criminal proceedings for hate speech are filed or end with acquittal. The substantial impunity of these actions, which together with defamation, substitution of person, fatal challenges, constitute the still indefinite mass of online crimes, has several contributing causes scattered in the "chain of control", some of which however consist of specific "regulatory holes ".

The impossibility of identifying the author, for example. Or the intricate aspects of the competent jurisdiction and judge (we must not forget that the platforms on which the crimes are committed are companies with offices abroad and representations in European countries but not in Italy).

But also the difficulty of framing some activities, think of the blackout challenge, in the "traditional" case of instigation to suicide.

Why TikTok must verify the age of those who enroll The proposal For this reason Terre des hommes, a non-profit organization that deals with the protection of minors, presented a " package "of specific regulatory reforms that - at least in part - anticipate what the Government and operators will be required to do with the Digital Services act.

These are in particular:

provide for the obligation for social platforms to create an electronic contact channel through which anyone, authority or private person, can send a report on dangerous or harmful content and that the notification to the electronic channel counts as " knowledge "of the reported contents, as required by the ecommerce directive 2000/31 (which incredibly is the only regulatory act of reference, at the moment, to which the platforms are required to comply; make it possible to effectively identify the perpetrator of the crime (which often hides behind fake profiles), forcing the platforms to disclose data on a court order; recognize the competent jurisdiction for social crimes of the country where the victim resides or is domiciled; connect the territorial jurisdiction to the victim's place of residence; establish an ad hoc Authority. The proposals were formulated by studying in practice the many specific cases dealt with by the operations ri and on which the main failures of concrete protection have been registered. Marisa Marraffino, lawyer and coordinator of the table that worked on the proposals, represented the "life cycle" of a possible report in the event of aggravated defamation: "In the United States there is no criminal relevance for these cases and this is already an aspect of friction between the Italian legal system and the action of American platforms ".

The “perverse” cycle begins with a report to the platform, provided it has a dedicated channel and responds promptly. Upon reporting, the platform may also respond that it cannot remove that content if it believes that it does not violate its guidelines and terms of use. But even if the platform removes the content, in the absence of an identification of the author, the latter could repeat his behavior. “A repeated series of aggravated defamation acts are stalking,” says Marraffino.

Alternative is to file a complaint but, obviously, against unknown persons: in this case the platforms often respond to the public prosecutor (provided that he has notified the request to the correct pec) not to have to transmit the data due to lack of jurisdiction. From here to archiving it is a short step. The third hypothesis is to initiate a civil suit against the platform, pursuant to Article 16 of the ecommerce directive; also in this case, assuming to be able to have a national pec address or to solve the problem of jurisdiction and, last but not least, to have the resources to do so. “Our proposals are a balanced solution and guarantee to overcome this impasse”, highlights Marraffino.

La Postale discovered over 5,300 cases of child pornography in 2021 531 children are victims of online abuse, most of them under the age of 13. Risks have grown with the pandemic The way to prevention Minister Bonetti declared Terre des Hommes proposals consistent with the government's line, expressed in the V National Childhood and Adolescence Plan (Dpr 25 January 2022) and in the National Plan for contrast and abuse of minors, approved on 5 May. “We asked ourselves how to build safety and prevention paths. School is necessary but not enough: training and widespread education are needed ”, the minister's line

For the first time, 70 young people contributed to the Plan for the fight against and abuse of minors. "Specific indications came from them: they complained that they did not feel safe online and asked to implement psychological assistance programs in protected contexts and in anonymity", reports Ilaria Antonini, Head of the Department for Family Policies and President of the National Observatory for the fight against pedophilia. With a view to prevention, Paolo Siani, vice president of the bicameral commission for Childhood and Adolescence, proposed the involvement of pediatricians, to be trained ad hoc.

Child pornography sites move from one country to another to circumvent bans In 2021, content related to sexual abuse peaked in the United States, partly due to migration from the Netherlands. The issue of the effective prosecution of crimes, however, is not the only striking aspect that emerged. The issue of investigation tools has also brought out some vulnerabilities with respect to the European panorama. In the Netherlands, on the subject of child pornography, for example, they have already experimented with Sweete, an avatar with the features of a minor with his own social account, to track down pedophile adults. “In Italy, which is a rightly guaranteed country, a crime cannot be challenged if the victim is not a person - reports Federica Giannotta, of Terre des Hommes -. We are now studying Sweete 2.0, a chat bot that could be compatible with the investigation and evidence collection system in Italy; in the Netherlands I am already at Sweete 3.0, which operates as a computer detector ".

Anna Lisa Lillini, director of the Postal Police, explained that in the dedicated unit there are psychological policewomen who analyze trends with harmful potential and that monitoring is 24 hours a day. "An anti-crime center will soon be established to minors who will absorb the skills currently spread over different units - the announcement -. Collaboration with platforms works; but not with all of them and not always because for defamation they often do not provide answers, which arrive instead in cases of stalking crimes. What remains fundamental for us is that of the removed content the data is kept for evidential purposes ". In both hate speech crimes and more serious child pornography crimes, the Postal Police does not use software but human resources, even with undercover agents.

Politics has declared war on end-to-end cryptography. end This type of encryption ensures the privacy of millions of users, but is increasingly contested by governments, who would like to have access to communications using the fight against child pornography as a justification. The platforms For TikTok, the digital education aspect of parents and teachers. “At TikTok, user safety is central and we have a specific focus on minors. We have a twofold content moderation system: the general automated one and based on human intervention by users; the specific one for minors of proactive moderation. We have a system of gradual admission to the various social functions. We have a branch certified e-mail and direct channels for law enforcement. But technology is not enough ”, observes Giacomo Lev Mannheimer, head of government affairs and public policy.

For Costanza Andreini, Meta's public policy manager, "the goal is common. In the 18 years of activity we have modified our actions to make the collaboration with the authorities more and more effective and the standards of the contents more adequate. I would like to point out that even the reports that come to us in an enormous amount, help our machine learning to be more and more proactive in identifying possible abuses. The technical level of prevention can always be perfected but it is necessary to correctly balance technical complexity, more incisive regulation and widespread awareness ".

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