23 August 2015
Anonymous speech challenged in Estonia
Commenters to soap - anonymous speech challenged in Estonia
An official event - Punk Singing Festival - was held in Estonia, in city
Rakvere on 22-23 of August, under the defamative devise "internet commenters
to soap!" It is not yet known whether or not the police will start a criminal
investigation according to Â§151 of the Penal Code (incitement
To avoid the "lost-in-translation" effect, we have to mention that negative
incitement "seebiks" means "into soap" when translated from Estonian to English.
The exclamation is used to express approximately the same sad connotation
than "ahju" - "into oven"
While normally only "anonymous internet commenters" are under attack
(in Estonia), this time all internet commentators were addressed as a social
Could it be some joke? How this kind of an attitude have became reality in
awarded the 2nd place for its Internet freedoms?
Aside many digital virtues demonstrated by Estonia like e-residency
and e-voting, some very interesting developments on the Internet freedom
topic can be seen in this small and emerging e-society. Official Estonia
together with the cultural elite really dislike the Internet commenters,
especially anonymous ones, and much has been done in Estonia to demonize
the internet commenters as a social group.
The real issues with anonymous comments are widley known
and every country probably has to make some decisions on the subject.
has so far maintained a Pushmi-Pullyu image in that context - showing the
Freedom Face to outside while aggressively moderating non-conformant opinions
(even those which are far from deviant behaviour or contain information otherwise
inaccessible). Actually it is a painful topic in Estonia due to the famous
- an internet commenter claimed that a transport enterpreneur vandalized
alternative transport routes to earn extra profit.
The most interesting containment standard - the one that the biggest news
is using, assumes the "registered" and "anonymous" commenters are kept in
separate threads both at writing and reading times. This way, the constant
labelling takes place and there exist two secular castes of commenters. That
kind of segregation is mostly disabling the intergroup discussion.
(a screenshot from
On the 18-th Open Society Forum in Tallinn in 2013
(sorry, only in Estonian),
Linnar Viik and Raul Rebane presented the stanza derived from Emor Opinion
according to which only 14% of the Estonian population consider Internet
commentaries as free speech
(sorry, only in Estonian)
At the same event, a targeted salesbullet was first marketed saying that
all internet commenters are inherently evil and responsible for the nation
When such a little percentage of persons are the culprit - but are they?
Then a natural reaction will arise to "assess" these persons administratively.
This is precisely the stanza currently actively advertised in Estonia by
both cultural and political elites.
We can only speculate but one of the probable reasons why Estonian elite
is so hostile towards the anonymous commentators, could to be their communist
past. When Estonia regained its indepencence, many former collaborants and
Communist Party officials instantly changed their color, the most notable
example being former KPSS ideology officer Andrus Ansip who is currently
serving the European Commission.
After some (but not personal) information was published from Ansip's
Communist Party case file, the Estonian Archive Law was instantly changed
to prohibit the access to "personal data".
(sorry, only in Estonian)
And unlike in Germany or Poland, the denunciation of the collaborators has
yet happened in Estonia.
In fact, commentaries to the news articles thus became a side channel used
by critical minds to publish various downplayed or withhold information,
including but not limited to the information about the past of many visible
people, like the Communist Party membership of those. (Technically, reading
is much more difficult to attribute to a person as well as to prove the
repeatedness and intent at the court, and that makes a big difference from
free speech viewpoint when compared to the blogs.)
Even more - during several years, a certain Raivo Aeg headed the Estonian
Secret Police (i.e. the same institution traversing trough the commentaries
trying to find dangerous to the State extremism). His real biography
being a Communist Party member and political commissar at Soviet Militia.
Of course, this kind on information got fast erased by moderators (as
or "private" or even pro-Russian). Most times a 15 minutes of visibility
before the "moderation" act was sufficient for next freelancers to copy
information and redistribute. This is where the dampened nation obtains
the prohibited knowledge to fulfill the holes in official biographies.
There are many interesting Internet related cultural topics yet to be
in Estonia, like automate censorship for certain words at commentaries.
various periods (related to some law texts prepared), critical to someone
like "jew", "CP" and "pederasty" were automatically censored in addition
to the f-words. While not constituing a direct censorship, these limitations
have effectively destroyed the possibilities to challenge the majority in
an acceptable ways. That kind of censorship has ignited numerous philosophical
talks about the actual difference between governmental censorship and harsh
moderation at most bigger portals. At least, in context of the Internet,
we can talk about some seemingly effective society management technologies
which Estonia is notoriously clever at.
The "Punk Singing Festival" belongs to the controversial cultural events,
marking the highlight achieved in domestification and handfeeding of the
opposers. State supported #LifeStylePunk Festival has became official in
Estonia. Former years, the Estonian President has visited the Punk Festival
While punk initially meant rebel and riot against the State or at least against
the majority, the Punk Singing Festival successfully glues these antipodes
together - being an officially recognized event recorded by the State TV.
Regarding the stability of the society, the capability of transforming the
oppositionaires into socially acceptables is an amazing societal technology
(omiting ethical considerations). Yet another Estonian #LifeStylePunk
event to contain and collectively supress the eventual heretics, is the Opinion
In that connotation, yelling out "internet commenters to soap" as a leitmotiv
for an #LifeStylePunk event the Estonian President habits to visit, is probably
not anymore an innocent containment technology as it seems at a first glance.
(internet commenters to soap!)