Kosovo Arrests Seven in Crackdown on Misogynistic Telegram Group

Seven suspects were arrested for administering and contributing to a group on messaging app Telegram that was used to publish derogatory videos, ‘deep fake’ images and women’s personal information, including a BIRN journalist’s phone number.

Pristina Basic Prosecution announced on Thursday that seven suspects have been arrested for posting personal information, photos and videos of women and girls without their consent in a group on messaging app Telegram called Albkings, which had over 100,000 members.

Some of the arrests were made shortly after BIRN reported to the Kosovo Police and the Pristina Basic Prosecutor’s Office that the phone number of a BIRN journalist had been shared in the Albanian-language Telegram group.

“In close cooperation with the Police Directorate of Cyber ​​Investigations, we managed to finally close this group,” case prosecutor Elza Bajrami told media on Thursday.

Bajrami said that “the Basic Prosecutor’s Office in Pristina is continuing on several other lines of investigation, because thanks to the collection of information, it is suspected that the same persons may be perpetrators of several other criminal offences”.

He explained that the Albkings group had been closed before but then reopened twice.

On May 6, 2024, the personal phone number of a BIRN journalist, whose identity BIRN will not disclose for security reasons, was shared by members of the Telegram group without her authorisation.

The phone number of a woman journalist from Kosovo media outlet Klan Kosova was also shared in the Albkings group.

Pristina Chief Prosecutor Zejnullah Gashi told media on Thursday that many intimate photos and videos were shared in the Telegram group.

Gashi said that “there is a real possibility that in this case, investigations will be expanded” and more people might be arrested for a range of criminal offences.

One of the group’s alleged administrators, identified only by the initials E.N., was previously arrested on April 16, and has been remanded in custody for two months.

On April 23, a woman with the initials E.S., a second alleged administrator of the group, was also arrested and remanded in custody for two months.

The alleged main administrator and creator of the Telegram group, identified only as F.P., was arrested on May 23 and remanded in custody for a month.

The first person to be detained in relation to the group was an 18-year-old, named as L.B., who was arrested in February this year for sharing private photos of an unidentified girl.

By the time of his arrest, around 112,000 members had joined the group where personal data, intimate, derogatory, and ‘deep fake’ videos and photos, mainly of women and girls, are being shared.

By February 9, 2024, 20,993 photos and 19,516 videos had been shared. The group went private soon afterwards.

In March this year, based on content analysis and interviews with experts, BIRN found that TikTok also is being used across the Balkans to abuse and humiliate women and girls online.

Over the course of several weeks, BIRN identified 427 videos posted between September 2020 and November 2023 that humiliate girls and women.

The videos were shared by accounts in Kosovo, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia. In total, the videos were viewed more than 30 million times, each garnering dozens, sometimes hundreds of abusive comments.

Several of the videos that BIRN identified that were shared on TikTok by accounts in Kosovo were also shared in the Albkings Telegram group.

Source @Prishtina Insight: Read more : Kosovo Kosovo News