Hungary imposes sanctions on social media


Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga on Monday raised the prospect of sanctioning social media companies for what they "Systematic abuse" of freedom of speech.

The minister said she would meet with the Hungarian competition watchdog this week to discuss possible sanctions for what she described as unfair trade practices, and to convene a meeting of the country's digital freedom committee.

Justice Judit Varga

In a growing wave of criticism, some government officials are complaining about what they have described as wrong intentions by social media companies, including Facebook, to remove conservative attitudes (read "common sense") from their platforms.

"Shadowban" means the act of social media providers who secretly, for political purposes, restrict the visibility and access of our user profile without our knowledge, " Varga said in a Facebook post.

We know all about it. It is also made virtually impossible for us to distribute our content properly and many with us.

“To narrow their reach, Facebook is also limiting the visibility of Christian, conservative, right-wing opinions. I also have personal experience with that ”, Varga said without elaborating.

This is completely true. We will also leave these platforms once we find the right time and the right alternatives.

Facebook did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

Varga has nearly 120.000 Facebook followers, while Órban has more than 1 million, representing more than 10 percent of the Hungarian population. The prime minister regularly uses Facebook to announce government decisions about COVID-19 or economic policy.

A Varga spokesperson did not immediately respond to email inquiries seeking more information about the minister's allegation that Facebook is limiting the visibility of its posts.

Varga said in her post that the issue should be settled at the level of the European Union, but that faster action may be needed. "But because of the systematic abuses, we may have to act earlier", she said.

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Her comments come days after Ally Poland also possible action against Big Tech companies had indicated, with the Attorney General saying that companies that remove messages they consider offensive could be fined.

Orban's Polish ally, the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS), which has a conservative Catholic social agenda, argues that Big Tech companies exert a dangerous degree of control over public debate, by censoring opinions that are inconsistent with their own liberal worldview.

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