Kosovo Law Ignores Tech-Facilitated Abuse of Women: BIRN Report

A new BIRN report highlights the shortcomings in legal structures and institutional responses in Kosovo when it comes to combating technology-facilitated and online gender-based violence.

Kosovo’s lack of specific internet regulations has resulted in a legal vacuum which makes it difficult for authorities to effectively protect users from online abuses, a BIRN report published on Tuesday highlighted.

“Kosovo’s legal and policy framework dealing exclusively with issues of domestic and gender-based violence does not sufficiently address technology-facilitated abuse of women and girls,” the report says.

The report, “Misogyny in the Albanian Digital Manosphere: The case of “Albkings”” comes after the Kosovo police and prosecution last month arrested seven suspects for administering and contributing to a Telegram app that published derogatory videos, ‘deep fake’ images and women’s personal information, including a BIRN journalist’s phone number. The day the Albkings group was busted, it had over 100,000 members.

The report says that although the Albkings group was an extreme manifestation of misogyny facilitated by digital technology, “the problematic ideology it promotes is not contained to online space, but is rather symptomatic of a patriarchal system that is deeply embedded in Kosovar society and Albanian culture”.

The report says the case of Albkings illustrates shortcomings in both legal structures and institutional responses in Kosovo when it comes to combating technology-facilitated and online gender-based violence.

“It highlights the influence yielded by technology conglomerates and the corresponding powerlessness on the part of governments and national regulatory bodies vis-a-vis these entities in safeguarding citizens from online abuses,” it says.

“On the other hand, the case speaks of the shortcomings of the normative discourse propagated in public discussions in the media, which sought to portray ‘Albkings’ members as socially deviant, psychologically disturbed, perverse and misinformed,” it adds.

The report says that there are significant institutional setbacks across all Western Balkan countries in effectively preventing gender-based violence deriving from technology.

“Most Western Balkan countries do not criminalize online gender-based violence and subsequently lack mechanisms to track incidents of this kind,” it notes.

Some of the arrests made in Kosovo last month came shortly after BIRN reported to the Kosovo Police and the Pristina Basic Prosecution that the phone number of a BIRN journalist had been shared in the Albkings Telegram group.

Over 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 and viewed more than 30 million times, each garnering dozens, sometimes hundreds, of abusive comments.

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

Read the full report on Kosovo here.