Just a few days after the mass shooting in the "Vladislav Ribnikar" elementary school in Belgrade,"in neighboring Serbia; announcements about regulation and even a ban of the popular video-sharing social network - TikTok in Macedonia, spread to the public. State institutions have not yet taken a consensual final position on this issue, despite the positions of some officials. However, the extent to which such a ban, in 2023, can be effective and at the same time affect freedom of speech is also questioned, Radio MOF reports.
What Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski announced back in February as the regulation of social networks "in the future", came just a few months later. In February, a 14-year-old girl was electrocuted in the Skopje neighborhood of Ilinden while filming TikTok. After this incident, Prime Minister Kovacevski announced that regulation of social networks would be considered.
The regulation, as Kovacevski pointed out at the time, would take place in accordance with the Digitalization Strategy and the Media Strategy. Back then, he stated that it is not a question of some a priori restrictions, but of a regulation that will enable their use for the purpose of advancing society.
A more recent proposal from the Liberal Democratic Party is to ban the video-sharing app. The party pointed out that the president of the party, and at the same time MP Monika Zajkova, will submit such a proposal to the Government, explaining that "it is necessary to ban TikTok and other social networks that incite violence because in our country we have also witnessed victims from the use of these networks".
"Prohibiting and controlling the downloading of games, content and applications that explicitly show and encourage violence. Also, review and control of films that can incite violence, especially among younger people, can be manipulatively used for propagandistic purposes by glorifying violence. The strictest control of the issuance and possession of firearms, verification of who owns weapons, control and prohibition of minors practicing in shooting ranges, and punishment for parents who encourage children to handle such dangerous devices", the LDP proposal states.
According to the president of the Media Development Center, Dejan Georgievski, in the educational system it is acceptable to introduce some kind of control over the use of electronic devices, at least during teaching. On the other hand, parents should decide what children and young people will use in their free time, Georgievski says.
According to him, the responsibility exists at different levels, such as the educational system and the family, but he says that it should not be the job of the state. At the same time, he says it will certainly set a bad precedent for ex ante censorship, which he says is unconstitutional. Therefore, he believes that such a decision will be completely unacceptable and wrong.
In the event of a ban, according to him, users of TikTok will likely move to other platforms, or rely on existing tools, such as virtual private networks (VPNs), to continue using the platform.
The president of the Media Development Center explains that nowadays it is very difficult for a ban to be effective.
The Ministry of Education and Science has indicated on several occasions that they are considering limiting the use of social networks in the school environment, because as Minister Jeton Shaqiri said, violence is often encouraged through trends and posts on them.
In addition, a rule book intended for schools for prevention and handling in case of violence is in the drafting stage, which would be valid from September.
Shaqiri also announced that preventive programs to combat bullying will be further strengthened, promoting, as he said, dialogue and non-violence as key elements in the education and development of children and youth.
Earlier, the ministry opened two email addresses where violence can be reported.
Shaqiri indicated that he will propose to the Government an urgent assessment of the situation and security risks, which, as he said, are largely fueled by certain social networks, such as TikTok.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Economy, Kreshnik Bekteshi earlier shared Shaqiri's status and briefly wrote "#TikTok out of North Macedonia".
The Minister of Information Society and Administration Azir Aliu, on the other hand, said that he cannot currently take a position on banning any social platform, but believes that they should start being regulated.
The full article in Macedonian is available at the following link.