Hey, Tag Zuckerberg: My Democracy Isn’t Your Laboratory

Some tech sites have reported that feature might eventually be rolled away to Facebook users in all of those other world, too. But of training course no-one really has any way of understanding what the public media company is definitely up to. And we don’t have any way to hold it accountable, either, aside from contacting it out publicly. Maybe that’s why it provides chosen to experiment with this new characteristic in small countries considerably taken off the concerns of all Americans.

But for us, changes such as this could be disastrous. Attracting audiences to a tale relies, above all, on making the process as easy as possible. Possibly one extra click can make an environment of difference. That is an existential threat, not only to my organization and others like it but also to the power of citizens in all of the countries subject to Facebook’s experimentation to find the truth about their societies and their leaders.

Serbia is a perfect example of as to why the political context of Facebook’s experimentation matters. Serbia escaped the dictatorship of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, but it hasn’t produced into a fully functioning democracy. One party, led by President Aleksandar Vucic, controls not only the Parliament but also the complete political system. Our nation has no tradition of checks and balances. Mr. Vucic nowadays presents himself as progressive and pro-European, but as minister of facts in the Milosevic government, he was responsible for censoring news coverage.

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Today, censorship in Serbia requires a softer contact form. Pliant outlets faithful to the government receive preferential treatment and better funding from native and central budgets. The ones that stray out of line find themselves getting unexpected visits from the taxes inspectors.

This isn’t an easy place to be an independent journalist. Since 2015, my investigative nonprofit, KRIK, provides covered stories the mainstream media won’t touch. In return, we have been spied on and threatened, and have had lurid fabrications about our private lives splashed on the front page of countrywide tabloids.

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Last year, KRIK published an investigation showing that whenever he was a young surgeon, Zlatibor Loncar, who is now minister of health, have been contracted by a gang to kill among its enemies, according to court testimony by guarded witnesses. You’d think the story of another minister administering poison via an IV would help to make a splash – however the mainstream outlets ignored it.

Likely to KRIK’s website is the only approach Serbian citizens could find out the truth about that report and many others like it. And until last month, the majority of our readers visited our webpage via Facebook.

Facebook allowed us to bypass mainstream stations and bring our stories to hundreds of thousands of readers. But now, possibly as the social network claims to become cracking down on “fake news,” it really is on the verge of ruining us.

That’s why Tag Zuckerberg’s arbitrary experiments happen to be so dangerous. The major Tv set channels, mainstream newspapers and organized-crime-run outlets will have no difficulty buying Facebook advertisements or finding different ways to reach their audiences. It’s small, alternative organizations like mine which will suffer.

We journalists bear some responsibility because of this, too. Employing Facebook to reach our readers has always been convenient, consequently we invested effort and time in building our presence there, helping it end up being the monster it really is today.

But what’s done is performed – a private company, accountable to nobody, has bought out the world’s media ecosystem. It is now liable for what goes on there. By picking small countries with shaky democratic organizations to be experimental subjects, it is demonstrating a cynical lack of concern for how its decisions affect the most vulnerable.

Now that we’ve viewed what Facebook does with its power, we must figure out how to put it in check. Twitter is definitely Serbia’s second-most-used platform (though an extremely distant second). We’ll probably start relying on it more. It could also be period to consider other, even more decentralized platforms.

I’ve always been attracted to alternative scenes. In the 1990s, I ran a little, independent punk magazine. Nowadays, as an investigative editor and reporter, I want to get at the stories the big, timid outlets won’t covers. In a nation like Serbia, independent sites like mine, and the few others that survive, will be the only places people can learn the truth.

Facebook could be a instrument for such alternative spaces to thrive. Rather – at least in Serbia – it risks becoming just another playground for the powerful.

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