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freedom of speech Hungary United States Commentary

Digital imperialism is upon us

Tech giant owners decide who has the right to free expression

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Loretta Tóth

Following a wave of bans by the leading social media sites, Magyar Nemzet columnist Loretta Tóth takes a look at the birth of “digital imperialism”.

Spanish sociologist Manuel Castells recognized in the early 2000s that network communication is the most important power in the world. He argued that power always derives from what people think and talk about, and nowadays this discourse takes place — not exclusively — but almost entirely on social networking platforms.

He posits that whoever gains control over these networks will inevitably have power, and it follows directly from this that political and economic actors in the international relations system are now fighting for this network power, as only those who dominate the creation of meaning and reality can win on the front lines. With this power, they can effectively destroy the enemy’s possibility to counter narratives, especially once those narratives become overwhelmingly dominant.

While Facebook and Twitter have conquered the world over the past nearly two decades, all while promising to expand freedom of expression, it was made clear last week that while all users are equal in the fight for networking capability, some users are more equal than others. And the final suspension of Donald Trump’s profile also highlights the futility of the power seen on these networks when it is all tied to an enemy-controlled platform.

The president had 88.7 million followers on Twitter, while President-elect Joe Biden is currently followed by 23.7 million users.

But that doesn’t mean anything because the owners of privately-owned Silicon Valley technology giants determine what actual opportunities we have to have a say in the space they control. And now they have also demonstrated that even the democratically elected — and still in office — president of the world’s leading power can be silenced in the blink of an eye if their interests so desire. But now they wanted it because the leaders of these tech companies, much like the Hollywood stars who also play a significant role in shaping opinions, are almost all the Democratic Party’s cronies, having proven their loyalties many times over.

Just think of the self-evident natural ease in which these companies prevented the spread of news about Hunter Biden and his connection to corruption cases in Ukraine, published last year by the New York Post in the weeks leading up to the presidential election, which was both compromising and extremely unpleasant for the Biden family.

The situation is different now, they say, as last week’s “Trump adherents” besieged the Capitol building, a symbol of American liberal democracy, and “there was a danger that the president would incite further violence”. It was an assumption that served as an excellent pretext to permanently deprive the president of the right to network and express his opinion and the associated power that comes with that. 

They can do it, and no one can hold them accountable, as under current laws they have every right to shape the rules of the game as they see fit within their network, even if they openly do so for the benefit of those who fall under the “more equal” category. At the very least, this is evidenced by the fact that Kamala Harris was still able to rejoice all last summer as a vice-presidential candidate over Black Lives Matter even as the mob rampaged through cities, burning, looting, and even murdering innocents. Tens of thousands of American businesses were destroyed, but the power of these networks allowed Black Lives Matter to flourish despite its prominent role in the destruction. 

The fact that Hillary Clinton questioned Trump’s election victory on social media for a long time after the 2016 presidential election was also amplified and actively promoted. 

The leaders of digital imperialism have now made it clear that they will decide what is democratic and what is not – and this will also be an important lesson for Hungary, which is preparing for the parliamentary elections in 2022.