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25 May, 2024
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From ill-considered posts to digital faux pas

The social media blunders of Cypriot politics

Yiannis Ioannou

Yiannis Ioannou

In the Cypriot digital political arena of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and lately, TikTok, national anniversaries, the Cyprus issue, and other significant events in a historical context or related to tumultuous international developments have perennially been fertile ground for blunders. Almost every year, during the anniversaries of the 1974 Turkish invasion, we witness the characteristic sight of an award-winning photograph featuring a Turkish Cypriot in mourning – quite vivid, as a relic of a bygone era of photojournalism – being shared in posts by public figures, politicians, and the like. In essence, it's a photograph of a Turkish Cypriot mourning amidst the intercommunal disturbances of 1963-1964, now coupled with a message about the pain of Greek Cypriots a decade later during the Turkish invasion.

National anniversaries on the social media platforms of Cypriot public space, particularly those of a political nature, have always served as a canvas for ill-considered and hastily published posts. The posts, whether related to the struggle of EOKA, Cypriot independence, October 28th, or March 25th, coups, and invasions, are literally at one's fingertips. You can find posts about Americans in the Ivor Zimma with Greek flags, Commandos in Iraq in 2003 with Byzantine flags, Turkish Cypriot civilians, or Greek Cypriot fighters from 1963-64 in the context of 1974. This same motif prevails in the era of the predominance of social media and the internet café worldwide. These photos, out of place and time, are usually accompanied by stereotypical messages, wooden language, or weighty commemorative analyses.

In Cyprus, the posts of frontline MPs Euthymios Diplaros and Christiana Erotocritou became viral this year, in connection with the anniversary of Greece's entry into World War II on October 28, 1940. The two MPs, prominent figures in DISY and DIKO respectively, shared AI-generated images of children in a parade with Greek flags. However, these images were so poorly crafted that they were rather eerie. In the era of AI, NFTs, and the image's role in internet politics, both politicians committed a serious blunder that, beyond a doubt, provided a source of great amusement and criticism, especially on Twitter. The reactions of the two are also of interest. Ms. Erotocritou, whether one agrees with her apology or is persuaded by it, removed the post and apologized.

On the contrary, Mr. Diplaros blocked several users who criticized or mocked him politically for his post. Both, beyond any doubt, appeared hasty. They wanted to share something for the 28th of October, but they lacked the ability or the necessary time to complement their message with a historically accurate photograph. They did it just to do it.

Of course, the larger discussion here goes well beyond the political personalities of the country and political science in the media. It delves deeper into the mindset, the awareness of what one says and why, publicly, as well as how one handles a mistake as a public figure. No one expects politicians, for example, to post a photograph from the military archives of the GES/DIS with evidence of a mountain gun in Korytsa for the 28th of October. What citizens ought to demand as a minimum from politicians, however, is the necessary seriousness. Moreover, a concise acknowledgment of the mistake in the logic of "this post has this problem. I made a mistake, I apologize, and I'm removing it" – with a reference or deletion of the post. This is what it comes down to regarding these commemorative posts.

Twitter: @JohnPikpas

[This opinion piece was translated from its Greek original and endeavors to convey the message relayed by its author]

Cyprus  |  opinion  |  politics

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