After admitting to “mistakes” in taking down Greek journalists’ accounts, Facebook refuses to talk to journalists’ union

Facebook admitted it made “mistakes” in its content moderation when it suspended the accounts of journalists reporting on a hunger strike by a jailed terrorist in Greece. But when the journalists’ union requested a meeting with the company, they were turned down by Facebook’s PR agency.

1 April 2021
After admitting to “mistakes” in taking down Greek journalists’ accounts, Facebook refuses to talk to journalists’ union
Alexia Barakou / Investigate Europe / Reporters United
1 April 2021

In late February 2021 reporters, photojournalists, lawyers and academics in Greece commenting on the hunger strike of convicted terrorist Dimitris Koufodinas found their Facebook accounts suspended by the platform. Replying to questions sent by Reporters United and other news outlets, Facebook admitted “mistakes” but failed to provide a full explanation conceding rather magnanimously: “We do allow people to neutrally discuss”.

On March 24, the Journalists’ Union of Athens Daily Newspapers (ESIEA) approached Facebook to request a meeting via video conference through the company’s media relations agency in Athens, Hill & Knowlton Strategies. 

On April 1, the Journalists’ Union in a statement (in Greek) said that Facebook turned down the request. It should be noted that the Union was not even able to get in touch with the company; the whole communication was channeled through Facebook’s PR agency.

What follows is a translation of the message sent by the Union, and the response from Hill & Knowlton Strategies:

“The Board of Directors of the Journalists’ Union of Athens Daily Newspapers requests a meeting, via video call, with authorised representatives of Facebook, to discuss matters pertaining to news content management on Facebook, and specifically Greek-language content.

The Journalists’ Union of Athens Daily Newspapers, a member of the European and International Journalists’ Federation, is the largest journalists’ union in Greece, founded in 1914, with a membership of 6,008 professional journalists, working in newspapers, radio, TV and online media organisations.

Given that a significant portion of content published on Facebook is produced by professional journalists and media organisations, we consider it appropriate to have a discussion about the unfettered, transparent and credible sharing of news content. We also wish to be informed regarding the content moderators, their expertise, and the actions taken by the platform in order to avoid incidents of content exclusion through targeted and malicious use of the reporting function, such as those observed in Greece but also globally. 

We look forward to your response, to arranging a meeting and to conducting a constructive discussion”.

Hill & Knowlton responded as follows:

“We thank you for your interest in our client, Facebook, and for the request from Journalists’ Union of Athens Daily Newspapers for a video conference meeting with a company representative.

In response to your email, I would like to inform you that on March 3, 2021, Facebook issued an official statement, and also published further information regarding its policies and procedures. If you wish, we can forward the response to you anew. 

You may consult the aforementioned response for answers regarding the request you have communicated to us.

Given the above, we would like to inform you that at the present time Facebook does not intend to issue new statements on this matter”.

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