In a social media world dominated by global technology giants, Hungary is seeking ways to ensure freedom of speech for all its citizens, Justice Minister Judit Varga said after a meeting of her ministry’s Digital Freedoms Committee.
“The Ministry of Justice’s Digital Freedom Committee continued today its dialogue with state and market stakeholders in order to ensure that the right of freedom of expression of Hungarian citizens prevails on social media platforms ruled by international tech giants,” Varga wrote in Facebook post.
There have already been a number of cases of censorship on networks such as Facebook in Hungary, but the issue has rapidly become an issue of global importance, with lawmakers across the world looking for ways to stem the monopoly Big Tech has on the flow of information and news.
At the meeting, Varga said that the ministry received a large number of complaints from citizens which can be distilled down to two issues, with citizens demanding the democratic values of transparency and accountability be a part of today’s digital space.
“Many are asking: Based on which laws and alongside what rule of law guarantees does Facebook have the right to censor Hungarian citizens?” she asked, adding that her ministry has sent another letter to Facebook’s regional management regarding transparency and ideological neutrality and is awaiting an answer.
“We continue to work to ensure that these rule-of-law guarantees exist in the digital space, as well!,” Varga wrote.
The huge economic power of Big Tech giants, their lack of transparency and their sometimes controversial tax practices are high on the governments’ agenda worldwide, as national legislators and law enforcers have a responsibility to ensure the legal security of their citizens, Varga emphasized.
Censorship a global issue
Hungary is not the only country in the Central European region concerned about social media censorship. Last week, a major petition from the Czech Republic signed by many well-known Czech personalities, including by game developer Daniel Vávra, musician Pavel Fajt, brewer Stanislav Bernard, writer David Zábranský, and Egyptologist Miroslav Bárta, was launched to oppose censorship on social media.
Czech deputes have also proposed a law in the country that would make it a crime to violate freedom of speech on social media platforms.
In Poland, the leader of Law and Justice (PiS) Jarosław Kaczyński said this year, “Today, we have political correctness and the censorship associated with it, which leads to repressive measures being used on people who say things not in line with political correctness. This all makes it hard to talk about freedom in such cases.”
Conservative Czech politicians have been banned from YouTube, Polish news websites have been removed from both Twitter and YouTube, including the outright banning of the entire Poland Daily media outlet on Twitter last month in what has been seen as a major censorship escalation and an outright attack on the freedom of the press.
Commenting on his YouTube ban, conservative Czech politician Tomio Okamura stated in July of this year, “I consider the fact that YouTube banned my channel, on which I published uncensored information, a gross attack on freedom of speech, as well as an attack on fundamental civil rights guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It disrupts free competition among political parties declared in the Czech Constitution.”
Censorship is ramping up
The issue of censorship has also become a major point of contention for conservatives who blame left-wing bias at companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter for attacking freedom of speech in Europe, the United States, and a range of other countries. As Remix News has previously reported, 18 out of 20 members of Facebook’s global oversight board, which has the power to censor content, have ties to George Soros and his Open Society Foundation.
In the run-up to the 2020 US presidential elections, the issue has taken on special importance, with Twitter censoring President Donald Trump’s tweets, Reddit banning the biggest page dedicated to Trump, YouTube demonetizing conservatives, and Twitter banning thousands of pro-Trump accounts.
With conservative governments in power in a range of Central European countries, there are some clamoring for these governments to take action and set a model for protecting free speech in their countries, which could have a knock-down effect across the West.
Title image: Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga (2nd from left) at the meeting of the ministry’s Digital Freedoms Committee. (source: Facebook)