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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 §151 of the Penal Code (incitement to hatred).

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"


(got from

While normally only "anonymous internet commenters" are under attack (in Estonia), this time all internet commentators were addressed as a social group.

Could it be some joke? How this kind of an attitude have became reality in Estonia,
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. Estonia
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 Delfi case

- 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
portal Delfi

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 Poll
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 1% of
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 personal
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 not
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 commentaries
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 involves
being a Communist Party member and political commissar at Soviet Militia.
Of course, this kind on information got fast erased by moderators (as offending
or "private" or even pro-Russian). Most times a 15 minutes of visibility
before the "moderation" act was sufficient for next freelancers to copy that
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 studied
in Estonia, like automate censorship for certain words at commentaries. During
various periods (related to some law texts prepared), critical to someone words
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 Festival


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!)