#HelloTaravari: Short analysis of the twitter campaign of the Macedonian health ministry


The twitter campaign #HelloTaravari started on june 19 around 4 PM. On june 22 at 1:10 PM I downloaded (probably) all 1142 tweets that contained the two hashtags used for communicating with the new minister for health of Macedonia: PërshëndetjeTaravari and #ЗдравоТаравари (Albanian and Macedonian language of the hashtag). Those are tweets from a period of around 72 hours.

If the retweets are removed then what remains is 294 original tweets using the hashtags. The volume of tweets (left) and retweets (right) can be seen below. The high volume of tweets and retweets occur in the morning and evening hours. However, it seems that the excitement from the first 36 hours dwindles in the second 36 hours of the chosen period.


This trend might mean that political marketing among Macedonian twitter users is short lived. It seems that even bad jokes aimed at the minister (example: "#HelloTaravari should I eat meat or cheese pie for breakfast?" - sent by @dRskata1 on June 22 at 10:37 AM) don't last more than 3 days. On June 22, just three days after the campaign started the number of original tweets using the hashtags is less then 5 per hour.

The three leading twitter users that use the hashtag to write original tweets are @evilblonddemon, @LOshGZE and @Carbonoxid with 28, 16 and 13 tweets respectively.

However, when the leading #HelloTaravari twitter users are compared to the leading tweeter users from the rankings done at (T-index, Top by Reach и Top by Followers), there is only one tweeter account (@evilblonddemon) that is present among the most active / most popular 20 users both generally in Macedonia and using #HelloTaravari. This might be an indicator that political campaigns are not of special interest among those Macedonian twitter users that create the leading content on twitter.


The analysis of the distribution of occurrence of the hashtag since the beginning of the campaign shows that most of the active accounts show up once or twice, while only 25 twitter accounts have 10 or more tweets and retweets with the hashtag #HelloTaravari. The most active accounts have 40 to 60 tweets and retweets during the 72 hour period, ore one tweet every 1.2 -1.8 hours (72 - 108 minutes).

At the and, almost all of the collected 1142 tweets use the Macedonian hashtag. Beside the original ministry announcement tweet, a tweet with a link to a news outlet PortAlb, and a tweet asking if the hashtag is used, every other (seven) tweets are retweets of the ministry's announcement. This means that a total of nine tweets have used the Albanian hashtag in the first 72 hours of the campaign. This might be an indication of the number of twitter users in Macedonia that speak Albanian, as well as indication that the Ministry of health should choose a different channel to talk to with Albanian-speaking citizens instead of Twitter.

Originally published in Macedonian at Radio Free Europe:

The silence of the telecom operators


Since February 2015 the opposition led by Zoran Zaev publishes the so called bombshells which reveal "the truth about Macedonia". They claim that the recordings contain alleged scandals, corruption, and abuses made by the leading people in the Government and the ruling political parties. They also claim that these recordings are not just some or few recordings that are made by accident, but that they are a small part of the millions of files of surveillance of communications of over 20000 citizens in Macedonia. While the main narrative stays the same, a part of the story changed over time: the part about the role of the telecom operators in this affair. In his early statements (12.02.2015) Zoran Zaev claimed that the wiretapping could not have happened without the knowledge of the operators, but just two weeks later (27.02.2015) Zaev said that the operators have no responsibility whatsoever at a press-conference for bombshell #5.

Since these statements raised suspicion about what exactly happened regarding the alleged mass surveillance of 20000 people, in February I started researching the laws. The analysis of that time led me to the following revelations:

1. Article 115 paragraph 2 of the Law for electronic communications allowed for usage of mass surveillance technology in June 2010;
2. This legal arrangement was made null and void (luckily) just 6 months later when the Constitutional court made its decision in December 2010;
3. The same legal provisions were reintroduced to the law in February 2014 when the new Law for electronic communications entered into force.

According to many sources (the opposition, journalists, political analysts) large part of the recordings were made between 2011-2014. Therefore the logical question, when the claim that 20000 people were under surveillance is undisputed,what happened with the (shortly legal) technology from 2010 in the period from 2010 to 2014?

Logically, at least for me, was to ask this question to the operators (T-Mobile, Makedonski Telekom, VIP and One) and to the regulator (AEK) in the following form:

1. Which actions did the operator take to comply with the decision of the Constitutional court of Republic of Macedonia U. No. 139/2010-0-1 from 15.12.2010?

2. Which actions did the Agency for electronic communications take in order to determine whether the telecom operators complied with the decision of the Constitutional court of Republic of Macedonia U. No. 139/2010-0-1 from 15.12.2010?

Furthermore, since the number of cases for which the courts have allowed special investigative measures, which include surveillance of communications, is a publicly available information, it was logical to ask the operators how many requests have they received individually, especially regarding the retained data of their users. This is a completely statistical information: if we know that in 2013 there were 226 approved requests for surveillance of communication, then the information how many requests were received by each operator will tell us only what was the involvement of each operator.

All of these FOI requests were denied, mostly by claiming that any answer will be a breach of "classified information". Only AEK did not respond at all. For all of the FOI requests I submitted a complaint to the Commission for protection of the right to free access of information of public interest, and now I wait for their response. I hope the Commission will find that to answer the question about complying to a court order and anonymous statistics cannot be hidden from the public.

Until we have their answer, visit this galery for the answers from the operators (in Macedonian).

Published on OKNO 5.6.2015:

News of NSA parter countries reaches Macedonia and the Prime Minister says he does not know anything about it


News of Internet surveillance finally reached the Macedonian mainstream media.

The news outlet 24Vesti reported twice (Македонија вклучена во американската шпионажа на интернетот, Груевски не знаел за договорот со кој Македонија е вклучена во шпионска афера) about the documents made available in Glen Greenwald's new book that show a list European partner countries (How Secret Partners Expand NSA’s Surveillance Dragnet).

The second report includes a statement form Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski saying that he is not familiar with the case, and he couldn't comment because he doesn't know the details.

Maybe this would be big news somewhere else, but it's difficult to expect a media storm in Macedonia which has seen declining media freedom rankings in the recent years with the latest Freedom of the Press report stating that: "Most private media outlets are tied to political or business interests that influence their content, and state-owned media tend to support government positions. The government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and its media allies have shown growing hostility toward critical news outlets."

Questions about the use of NSA technology by the Macedonian government for the purpose of surveillance of Macedonian citizens remain to be answered, even though there might be no one to ask them.

Macedonia edges towards on-line censorhip


Today the Macedonian government's spokesperson announced a new plan to set up a new domestic company which will provide on-line betting / gambling to residents in Macedonia. [Full press release in Macedonian.]

The plan will involve "disabling of betting / gambling on-line games on foreign web sites". The blockade is set to last two years beginning in March 2014.

Citing benefits for "the state and the society" the blocking of the sites will be carried out by the Agency for Electronic Communications and the Ministry for Information Society.

Given the extremely poor record of the Macedonian government on media freedom, and previous unsuccessful attempts to legislate liability for Internet access providers for content published via their services, it's not too difficult to imagine a more broad use of the blocking mechanism once it is set up.

At this point raising concern about the proposed plan for blocking access to site is the least we can do. The communities from the Internet should rally again.

The Calendar for 2014


Awesomeness transpired today in Izlet café where the photographs of the annual Twitter calendar (NSFW link) were displayed for the first time.

Following last year's breast cancer awareness calendar (NSFW link), this year the topic was moved to sex education and, very loosely and broadly, interior design.

Ivana Batev deserves all the credits for the hard work in making the photographs.

She tweeted: Whoever thinks that to undress in Macedonia is not revolutionary doesn't live in the same society as me and I envy them.

I agree with this and I think that this is the strongest statement we can send with the photographs today. Kudos for all the people who were audacious enough to undress before her.

Also, big thanks to HERA who provided sex education tips in 140 characters twitter format and to everyone who bought photographs. The money will be used to help marginalized communities in Macedonia.

And finally, a little bit of excitement for our 'interior design through the porn lens' blog IdeiZaDomot (NSFW link) as we will have some original content to add to the stream.

Talking at Day of the Imprisoned Writer and "Stanica Studentska"


With a delay which is not unusual for Macedonia, the Macedonian PEN observed the Day of the Imprisoned Writer on December 3rd at the Faculty of Philology in Skopje.

The event welcomed speakers and poets. I had about 5 minutes to talk on the given topic: "Digital freedom and the writer". I spent my time talking about surveillance and the inability to read and write in privacy and anonymity with the usual computer system people use - making a case for free software and encryption. I hope that that was useful for the audience which I think was mostly with a non-technical background.

The full text [in Macedonian and probably in English] will be published on Diversity's site in the coming days. Update 21.12.2013: here is a link to the text [in Macedonian].

The preparations for the event took a lot of time and I'm glad to say it was time well spend. Working with Valentina Bozinovska on our rhetoric skills was useful. I got to see my text and speech evolving. Looking back on it I now think that 2-3 weeks of writing and practice are needed to be ready for speaking on events with strict time slots.


Two days later, on December 5th, I partnered with Damjan for yet another presentation / workshop [and received help from Ana]. The annual event organized by YEF [MOF] is called "Stanica Studentska" and is a forum for meetings and discussions among university and high-school students. had another presentation about 3D printing earlier the same day, and we talked about regulation on the Internet. I think we did a good job. We spent the least possible time to talk in general on the topic and then tried to engage everybody.

We had a group of about 20 people. I was standing at one end of the room representing total regulation, and Damjan was at the other end. We asked everybody to stand up and make a line positioning themselves according to their preferences for regulation. Then we asked them to explain why do they stand in a particular position and to move around if what they hear from the others influences their views in any way. Maybe, at some point it was chaotic, but it looked like fun most of the time.

The views of the people present were interesting. Almost everyone talked about regulation as something conducted by governments. Nobody really discussed the role of big Internet companies. I think that is something we need to work on in the future.

Macedonia's new media law - what [can we do] now?


It should be said with as few words as possible: Macedonia's newly proposed law on media allows censorship. It is as simple as that.

But here is the fine print: As far as public knowledge goes, most media in the country are already owned or controlled by the government or pro-government businessmen. If a story is not supposed to be run - it wont be, as we have seen on numerous times so far. Press freedom has plummeted in recent years. And, in the strangest turn of events [and as far as the official investigation goes without any foul play], Nikola Mladenov died and with him, the fate only independent or pro-opposition media outlet hangs by a thread.

So, by the time this law is enacted there might not be anything left to censor. Nevertheless, it is the murkiest of scenarios. There is little hope that the law can be halted in Parliament and even less in the Constitutional court which is postponing decisions on 'hot' issues. Journalists are divided on the issue of censorship and the profession at worst and scared for their job and paycheck at best.

Thus, another principled battle of huge proportion lands in the laps of couple of Internet activists, free speech groups and few journalists who, at least for now, ride on the free waves of the Internet. What [can we do] now?

Dismantling of monuments will be tweeted? - A short note on the overdue Twitter revolution in Macedonia


The saying goes that everything is late in the Balkans [and even more so in Macedonia]. It seems that in the 2013 municipal elections the Twitter revolution finally happened in [to] Macedonia.

In the past few years there were couple of politically driven, socially charged issues [protest against police brutality, protest against rising electricity and heating prices] that used Internet, social networks and technology in general. However none of them were significantly successful.

Now finally praise is coming from mainstream pundits, and acknowledgment and gratification are coming from the mayor-elect of Centar municipality in Skopje. Twitter has won!

That is, of course, if we overlook the ongoing and extensive debate regarding the role of social networks in social movements - something that according to researches is hard to measure. For more, there is always Evgeny Morozov's writing criticizing the usual naivety of 'Tweets were sent. Dictators were toppled.'