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Feb 09, 2021 - Zoltán Kovács

This is why social media censorship threatens freedom of speech and ultimately jeopardizes its very foundations

Sadly, the censorship of conservative voices on the internet is nothing new, but recent events have taken matters too far, and it’s time to call out the tech giants for their threats to freedom of speech.

 

The banning of Donald Trump, while he was still the sitting president of the United States, from the biggest social media platforms, including tech giants like Facebook and Twitter, showed that international, Big Tech firms possess powers capable of censoring even the president of the United States and having a major impact on freedom of expression. Permanently blocking President Trump’s accounts, however, was only the latest installment of the liberal, mainstream media’s decade-long push to silence voices on the internet that do not conform to a certain world view.

Regular readers will recall how Twitter suspended @abouthungary, the Hungarian Government’s official English-language Twitter account, in early October without any warning or explanation. Twitter restored the About Hungary page a few hours later and told press that the suspension “happened by mistake,” but they never sent the PM’s office an explanation, let alone an apology.

Recently, however, Facebook has resorted to using what some would call a “subtler” tactic but one that also jeopardizes free speech in the online space.

The name of the method is “shadow banning,” and it essentially means that the business moguls behind social media platforms arbitrarily, most frequently for political reasons, and secretly restrict what you and I see in our social media feeds.

While Justice Minister Judit Varga has been outspoken about Big Tech’s repeated abuses of free speech, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s leaked recording of a planned political censorship campaign that could go “far beyond” the banning of President Trump will certainly amplify the voices of those concerned about freedom of speech. What social media firms don’t seem to realize is that by exercising censorship on their platforms, they ultimately undermine the foundations of their very existence.

Because free speech, and particularly people’s need for a space to freely share their ideas, is what gave rise to social media in the first place. Scrub freedom from the equation, and the Twitter or Facebook you’ll be left with will be nothing more than a collection of mainstream, liberal political mantras.

The current situation is most problematic for those of us who do not subscribe to that world view as our voices are — more often than not — treated with alarming levels of double standards. That’s why many are now seeking solutions for regulating Big Tech firms in order to safeguard freedom of speech as one of the fundamental human rights.

Poland has begun paving the way by proposing a new law to prevent them from deleting content or banning users who do not break Polish laws. According to the provisions in the new law, social media firms that violate the rules could be fined up to 50 million zloty (EUR 11 million).

According to Justice Minister Varga, following talks with Hungary’s Digital Freedom Committee, a government body set up last March to ensure that citizens’ rights are respected in the digital sphere, the Ministry of Justice will submit draft legislation to Parliament this spring on how to protect Hungarian people and businesses from the negative effects of online censorship as well.

Stay tuned!