OP/ED: Social media raise concerns following Elena Akrita’s 30-day Facebook ban

OP/ED: Social media raise concerns following Elena Akrita’s 30-day Facebook ban

By Christos Koutsonasios *

Social media undoubtedly represent a great possibility for anyone, no matter who they are, to express themselves freely. I say possibility and not reality. Strong reality and not real possibility. For the first time in the field of idea circulation, anyone can become a journalist for themselves, have a public platform, communicate their views or the views of others without commitments and promissory to economic and political agents, without being blackmailed, censored and self-censored.

One can make free use of these means and be judged, criticized, confronted, evaluated, this is the quintessence of democracy in a society that wants and claims to be called democratic. The rhetoric employed can be sharp, mild, sugar-coated, propagandistic, meaningless, superficial, while the repertoire is also unlimited; political, social, cultural, personal, simple entertainment, songs, photos, etc.

These are the possibilities, but how is reality shaped?

We would be very romantic, perhaps naïve and in any case unrealistic if we believed that supranational business moguls like Facebook or Twitter launched these platforms hosting billions of users with the sole purpose of promoting the free flow of ideas. Their primary concern is business profit and to some extent this is legitimate, since they are in fact enterprises and their profits are huge. At the same time, they create a huge database comprising all sorts of personal data; political views, personal tastes, personal information, consumer preferences and so forth, which in itself, without being trafficked for this purpose, constitutes the number one tool for governments, political parties, companies, advertisers.

The function of social media is opaque; no one can really tell who calls the shots, what decisions are made and when they are made, when and why a feature is to be added and when it will be removed. Nobody knows the relations of social media with governments, party affiliations, companies. There are supposed to be some frameworks and some principles but those are general, unspecified and usually applied ala carte by some anonymous people called Facebook or Twitter Team, who impose sanctions such as temporary blocks.

The recent 30-day ban of Elena Akrita from Facebook, but also of other journalists, points to bias, censorship and political expediency. Akrita’s acerbic commentary, perfusing and infiltrating, is vexing the administration, it is vexing a government that has established monophony on mainstream media and it is irksome mainly because it has a great outreach; her commentary reaches over 100,000 readers, a number that no mainstream media could ever achieve. If someone was annoyed and considered one of Akrita’s comments to be insulting, they have every legal right to go to court, as dictated by the press law. Any other action and punishment imposed on her anonymously via Facebook is pure censorship and after all everyone, even Akrita, is judged daily for what they write and is evaluated by thousands of readers. This, after all, is the essence of democracy. /ibna

* Christos Koutsonasios is a Lawyer and member of the PRATTO Political Secretariat