After the Attack on the Slovak Prime Minister, Online Toxicity Increased by Up to 60%

Bratislava, May 16, 2024 – The assassination attempt on Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, which took place on May 15, 2024, in Handlová, immediately triggered another wave of hatred and toxicity in the online space. The toxicity of comments under posts from media and public institutions increased by up to 60% compared to the worst day in the history of monitoring their profiles. This information was reported by the Slovak startup elv.ai, which focuses on moderating discussions in the online space.

“What we witnessed yesterday shocked us all. It is natural that during important events in our society, we observe an increase in activity on social networks. We have observed that during elections and sport events, the level of toxicity in posts significantly increases. The attack on Prime Minister Fico has raised the level of hatred on social networks to levels we have never seen before,” said Jakub Šuster, CEO of elv.ai.

What Do the Data Say?

More than 60 profiles of monitored media and public institutions in Slovakia recorded a total of 71 818 comments yesterday, with the rate of hateful comments reaching up to 21.62%.

For comparison, during the recent presidential elections, media companies in Slovakia recorded the highest number of processed comments in their history, specifically 105 710 comments on Slovak and Czech internet (April 16, 2024), with the toxicity rate of online discussions at that time being 13.62%.

“Compared to the most toxic day in the history of our measurements, we saw an increase in toxicity in the Slovak online environment by up to 60% in connection with the attack on the Slovak Prime Minister. These are alarming numbers,” explained Šuster.

Elv.ai focuses on content moderation on social networks using a combination of artificial intelligence and human moderators. Currently, its services are used by more than a third of the Slovak media market. Its clients include major Slovak media such as TV Markíza, TV JOJ, News and Media Holding, as well as public institutions such as the Representation of the European Commission in Slovakia, the General Health Insurance Company, and the Police of the Slovak Republic.

Media Disabled Comments

A few hours after the attack, the Police of the Slovak Republic responded on their official profile, urging users to refrain from vulgar and inappropriate comments regarding the attack. Additionally, they requested media outlets to disable the commenting option on social media posts informing about the attack on Robert Fico.

“It is an unprecedented situation where the Police have asked the media to disable comments. I do not recall anything like this happening in history. Given the level of toxicity and hatred we observed, I understand it,” added Jakub Šuster.

Online Hate Can Have Fatal Consequences

Research shows that exposure to negative comments can lead to further polarization among users. Even one inappropriate comment can trigger a wave of negativity, which, like a snowball effect, can influence the entire discussion. It appears that exposure to hateful comments can lead to a general negative change in human perception.

“Comments on social networks will not be disabled forever. If we do not finally start addressing the situation in the online space thoroughly as a society, polarization on social networks will continue to grow. It will then spill over into the real world, and violence will repeat,” concluded Šuster.