Hungary Justice Ministry announces plans for tougher social media regulation
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Hungary Justice Ministry announces plans for tougher social media regulation

The Hungarian Minister of Justice announced on Facebook Tuesday that the Ministry of Justice would bring a bill to the Hungarian Parliament to regulate social media companies’ deplatforming policies in Hungary this spring.

In her post, Minister Varga Judit decried conditions where “everyone can be arbitrarily switched off from the online space without any official, transparent and fair proceeding and legal remedy,” and stated that the regulation would encourage “legal, transparent, and controllable” practices by popular social media companies in Hungary, such as Facebook and Instagram. Judit asserted that Hungary’s regulations would expand beyond established EU guidelines, which tend to focus more closely on encouraging social media companies to prevent disinformation and promote transparent political content.

This announcement comes weeks after former US president Donald Trump’s Twitter account was permanently banned following the January 6 violence at the US Capitol building. Other platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, have followed suit since, claiming that the risk of violence from further Trump messages remained high.

Hungary has attracted international attention for what has been described as anti-democratic policies by the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a right-wing populist and nationalist whose ruling Fidesz party has tamped down on freedom of the press in Hungary. A July 2020 Human Rights Watch report found that the Hungarian media landscape had become largely controlled by Orban’s government through takeovers by political allies and the passage of strict media laws. However, a coalition of opposition figures has agreed to run a single candidate in opposition to Orban in 2022, citing an opportunity to unseat him due to Fidesz’s dropping popularity.

While Judit’s announcement did not offer any policy specifics as to how the proposed law would restrict social media companies’ abilities to monitor content, it is expected that the Hungarian government would wish to prevent controversial party leaders from being removed from their platforms prior to the 2022 election. Such restrictions could be similar to those requested in August by the head of the Hungarian Data Protection Authority, who called for a regulation allowing social media platforms to only suspend accounts for compelling reasons and allowing government officials to review those decisions. That request sparked pushback in Hungary, and an online petition challenging the planned policy received thousands of signatures in protest.