HRW report remains oddly silent about Hungary’s most widespread election fraud since the fall of communism

Hungary’s opposition sent out a massive campaign of unwanted text messages to 1 million voters in a flagrant violation of data privacy laws just a few days before election day. The firm behind the illegal activity is reportedly none other than DatAdat, affiliated with the former Socialist PM and funded by the U.S.-based NGO “Action for Democracy.”

Somehow, none of this made it into Human Rights Watch’s lengthy report about the illicit use of personal data in political campaigns. Wait, please, while I put on my surprised face.

Human Rights Watch’s latest report, published this morning, raises some concerns about the use of personal data for political campaign purposes in Hungary’s 2022 elections. You might not expect me to say this, but: They are right and should do so.

Except, they are looking in the wrong place.

In their report, “experts” at Human Rights Watch direct their undivided attention to finding human rights abuse in the campaign of Prime Minister Orbán’s ruling Fidesz-KDNP alliance. They claim that we exercise “effective control” over the media, “undermine the independence of the judiciary” and curb civil society. The report also finds that we’re “centralizing power” and “rolling back democratic safeguards.”

Clearly, we’ve been hard at work.

But how can anyone who knows anything about events in Hungary take this report – or this organization – seriously? It doesn’t say a word about Hungary’s most egregious election fraud since the fall of communism, one committed by Hungarian opposition parties.

Just a few days before election day, around 1 million voters received suspicious text messages, urging them to vote for the opposition candidate. The campaign team sent out the text messages in question without consent from the recipients. The message, sent to their mobile phones, often addressed them by name.

That’s a major violation of Hungarian campaign regulations and an egregious breach of the EU’s GDPR, the law protecting personal data. However, it seems, it’s not a large enough breach to trigger Human Rights Watch.

A joint investigation by the service providers and the authorities revealed that the text messages, which reached practically a tenth of Hungary’s population through an intermediary company, were ordered by the Austrian subsidiary of the DatAdat group, set up by former Hungarian Socialist Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai and his secret service minister, Ádám Ficsor. (Read more here about the curious cast of characters behind DatAdat.)

What’s more, we learned from an intelligence report published last week by Hungarian secret services that the U.S.-based NGO “Action for Democracy” provided HUF 3 billion (EUR 7.3 million) in illicit foreign funding for the election campaign of the united opposition.

Guess where much of that many landed. Exactly, at the DatAdat group. Now we’re talking about a growing list of serious human rights violations, privacy violations, and illicit campaign funding. Did it merit mention by HRW? Of course not.

If you’d ask me how all of this is possible, I’d probably take a gamble and simply say point-blank: The same funders that supplied Hungarian opposition parties with a major injection of cash in the run-up to the elections this past spring is very likely financing this HRW report as well.