Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government has considered sanctions against Facebook, Twitter, and other social media giants for silencing free speech.

Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga has approached the country’s competition watchdog and the national digital freedom committee to discuss action against big social media platforms biased towards conservative content, Reuters reported on Monday. She is looking at “possibilities of sanctioning unfair trading practices,” the new website Hungary Times confirmed.

On Monday, the Hungarian minister blasted Facebook and other social media companies for limiting the “visibility of Christian, conservative, right-wing opinions.” They were violating “all those fundamental democratic legal norms that form the basis of Western-type culture,” she added.

The news agency Reuters reported Varga’s comments:

Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga on Monday raised the prospect of sanctioning social media firms over what she called “systematic abuses” of free speech.

The minister said she would meet the Hungarian competition watchdog this week to discuss possible penalties for what she described as unfair commercial practices as well as convening a meeting of the country’s digital freedom committee.

In a growing wave of criticism, some government officials are complaining about what they have described as efforts by social media companies, including Facebook, to limit conservative views on their platforms. (…)

“‘Shadowban’ means the act of social media providers secretly, for political purposes, restricting the visibility and access of our user profile without our knowledge about it,” Varga said in a Facebook post.

“To reduce their reach, Facebook also limits the visibility of Christian, conservative, right-wing opinions. I also have personal experience of that,” Varga said without elaborating. (…)

Varga has nearly 120,000 Facebook followers, while Orban has over 1 million, representing more than 10% of the Hungarian population. The prime minister frequently uses Facebook to announce government decisions about COVID-19 or economic policy.

Following the ban on U.S. President Donald Trump by Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and other social media companies, Varga slammed the tech giants for stifling democracy and enforcing “a globalist liberal ideology,” the website Hungary Today reported.

The social media ban on President Trump shows “how vulnerable we really are to global control of liberal social media,” she warned last week. “In digital imperialism, it no longer matters whether one is an average user or the democratically elected president of the world’s leading power, since it has become clear that both can be silenced at the touch of a single button.”

While many left-wing commentators want Trump supporters banned and blacklisted following the election outcome, they also want to punish world leaders seen close to the U.S. president.

“After US president’s [Twitter] ban, some wonder if action will be taken against populists accused of using social media to stir chaos,” UK’s leftwing newspaper The Guardian commented.

Besides Orban, the newspaper named India’s Modi and Brazil’s Bolsonaro as populist leaders deserving a ban on social media.

But it is not just big tech. The incoming Joe Biden administration may also seek to punish Orban and other suspected ‘Trump allies’ on the world stage, media reports suggest.

“Biden administration set to take a more critical stance toward Hungary, Poland, other Central European nations,” The Wall Street Journal predicted.

Politico noted that “a Democratic administration is likely to shun” the leaders of Hungary and Poland “as political pariahs.”

Trump: ‘Free speech is under assault like never before’

 

 
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