Hungary’s Data Protection Chief Proposes ‘Facebook Law’
Hungary’s Data Protection Chief proposed a new legislation which would enable social media platforms to ban people from their services only with a compelling reason, while also granting the right to Hungarian authorities to review the decisions.
The head of the Hungarian Data Protection Authority (NAIH), requested a regulation on social media at a meeting of the Digital Freedom Working Group, according to which community profiles can only be suspended for compelling reasons, pro-government daily Magyar Nemzet reports. Also, according to Attila Péterfalvi, Hungarian authorities should have the right to review these decisions.
The justice ministry’s digital freedom committee aimed at improving the transparency of tech firms has penned a letter to the regional director of Facebook asking whether the company’s supervisory board complied with the requirements of political neutrality and transparency in its procedures, Justice Minister Judit Varga said on Tuesday.
“I made the suggestion of establishing a Hungarian authority procedure in which the Hungarian authorities would oblige Facebook to review unjustified suspensions so that freedom of expression would remain free indeed,” Péterfalvi told the paper.
The Data Protection Chief believes the requirement of suspended Facebook profiles to verify themselves with personal documents to be reactivated is concerning and is “contrary to the principles of the data protection regulations and the practice of the Hungarian data protection authority.”
“I find this practice excessive, but Facebook is not subject to Hungarian rules, but uniform European regulations. The Hungarian authorities cannot initiate an investigation. However, looking at it from the perspective of freedom of expression and the flow of information, it is clear a new regulation is needed.”
The leading pro-government daily accuses ‘George Soros and his network’, in a series of articles, of censoring Facebook content and limiting free speech. A liberal commentator finds the accusations absurd. A neoliberal pundit notes that free speech is under threat throughout Europe.
In response, rightist opposition party Jobbik protested the idea, claiming that Attila Péterfalvi’s proposal would not actually protect the right to the freedom of expression, and it is, in fact, an attempt of the Orbán-government to decide, through the authorities, who can or cannot access Facebook.
The party has also launched an online petition “to ensure that the operation of Facebook in Hungary is not affected by any influence of the government.”
A few months ago, the digital freedom committee was set up by the Justice Ministry aimed to “improve the transparency of tech firms”.
The demand for the legal regulation of social media platforms has long been the subject of serious debate not only abroad but in Hungary as well. The Orbán government has been claiming that multinational technology companies enjoy excessive power, are not transparent, and often censor certain political viewpoints. But some fear this is only an excuse for the government to expand its influence on these platforms and to silence opposing opinions.
Featured photo by Balázs Mohai/MTI