From Trump To Charbakhtsi Angel: Living In The Times Of Dictatorial Social Networks

Samvel Martirosyan

Media researcher

Large Internet platforms are becoming autonomous domains. Autonomous in all senses, including the most disturbing definitions. Let’s go through recent events to understand how quickly and unnoticed everything is changing and imply serious consequences.

Social networks have blocked the still incumbent US President Donald Trump, who was one of the most active and influential social media figures in the world, even if we do not take into account his other offline influence levers. And suddenly, within hours, Trump has been blocked by Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Twitch, Discord.

Moreover, not only have Trump’s accounts been blocked, but also those of his influential followers, representatives of his team, etc. The hashtags created by Trump supporters have been blocked or the views are looked down upon on Pinterest, TickTock. The same thing is happening on YouTube.

After that, Trump fans switched to the non-moderated social network Parler, but it quickly appeared under sanctions by Google and Apple. In fact, at the moment I am writing these lines, traces of Trump can be found in the Telegram, as censorship has not yet reached here (Telegram creator Durov is now trying to exploit this moment by increasing his audience through immigrants from other social networks).

Another, less noisy story took place a few weeks before Trump’s virtual odyssey. There are dozens of similar platforms for running social networks, one of which is called Amplifier. It is used by many small, large and very large organizations. And the SMM teams of those organizations used that program to post posts, videos and other content on their social networks.

And suddenly, on December 23, on Christmas Eve for the Catholic world, at the hottest working moment, its integration with Facebook was frozen for a week. Not only can people not work with the program, but something more interesting happened. All previous Amplifier posts have disappeared from Facebook.

I do not know who was more saddened, Trump from the blockades or many businessmen whose Facebook content disappeared during the pre-holiday season. In any case, we are dealing with a situation when social networks can make political decisions. As it happened with Trump. (If my dear reader has already arrived here, I would definitely like to point out that I am not a Trump fan myself. To put it mildly. But the fact remains, all this is not pretty. To put it mildly).

It is possible that there was just some misunderstanding in the case of Amplifier. But even if there is a misunderstanding, later contact with the administration of Facebook or another social network becomes the subject of a separate odyssey. And this is still the case with large organizations.

What about the little ones, who are often ignored in general? Especially now, during the quarantine, when knocking on the door has become totally impossible, because the employees in social networks are exhausted, and mostly absent.

In most cases, the applicants do not even receive an answer. The problem remains in the air.

For example, one day an Armenian media outlet fell under the so-called shadow ban. In other words, there were no notifications or visible blocks, but the posts on the Facebook page simply did not appear on people’s walls. The algorithm simply did not show the posts to people, even though they were open.

Presumably, the problem was again a mediated program, through which the news admins were working on Facebook. Within days after it was turned off, the situation was settled. However, it did not become clear why, how, what, how much, etc., etc. 

What about the thousands of Armenians and Diaspora Armenians whose accounts were blocked on Twitter or Facebook during the war? The majority did not receive any explanation. The system simply considered something suspicious and blocked it. One person, for a month, another forever.

At least one of them realized that they had used a forbidden word (there is no longer a list of such words, everyone should roughly imagine the limits of morality that reporters write for Facebook moderators). 

Some of them did not even have time to write anything, they were detained right from the moment of registration. And in all cases no answer, no opportunity to appeal, explain or get an explanation. To whom should the Angel of Charbakht or Gago247898 turn when they are blocked and are not given an explanation as to why?

In short, social networks do whatever they want. And this situation is becoming more and more uncontrollable. Who will you complain to if Trump is being removed?

You can still take refuge in Telegram. Until we understand what kind of bad we can expect over there.

Samvel Martirosyan

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.

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