The know-how is obviously missing – but the intention is clearly stated.
Orbán is ruling the entirety of traditional media, radio, TV, most of the printed press (locally and on the national level), plus a great deal of online news portals – as well as advertising, the school curriculum, and every major points of influence of public discourse – but he keeps griping about being oppressed by the “liberal media” nonetheless.
He is also pissed off at Facebook – but not for the same reason your politicians are. Sure, it would be nice to tax Facebook, Google, et.al. But that’s not going to happen. But social media is the enemy of every dictator, even if he rules the viral fake news realm himself.
Firstly, people can share whatever they want on social media. It came to the point when Facebook is the only place one can go to get real-time information about a protest.
Secondly, Facebook started to crack down on fake news – and in Hungary that means mostly the Orbán media. What is the exclusive realm of Putinist trolls and fringe idiots in other countries is government communication in Hungary. Spreading the usual Russia-originating memes of hatred and distraction as well as blatantly claiming that black is white, salaries are rising, education and healthcare is more funded than ever, and Hungarians are from Sirius.
As a consequence we came to the point when Facebook put the entirety of the Orbán media on blacklist before the elections, blocking them from spending (taxpayer) money on promoting their content, like migration truthism and fearmongering. They could still post whatever they wanted – expect the video about Vienna that claimed that “multiculturalism everything has wormed its way in, bringing conflicts, crime, antisemitism and terrorism, things that come from the cohabitation of cultures“. The video was released by the government’s own Center for Basic Rights, which is their answer to the non-governmental Civil Liberties Union. And if the latter protects civil liberties – you can imagine what the government counterpoint does.
To no one’s surprise, Orbán’s government think tank came up with a study of the possibility of “capturing the cloud”, as they poetically put it. I personally see this battle as Alien vs. Predator – when you want them both to lose – but here are a few nuggets for you:
- They would give authority to Orbán’s newly established loyalist “administrative” courts to to regulate the content of social media. (The administrative courts’ plan is momentarily suspended as Orbán is trying to lick his way back to the VIP table in Brussels – but he will push on whether he gets what he wants or not.)
- They called Facebook’s ban on advertising loyalist content “the new pilot project of progressive totalitarianism“
- They claim that Trump’s Twitter-based election win made progressive tech elites realize that non-regulation won’t bring the results they wanted so they need censorship.
On the basis on these findings, the newly minted minister of justice (a breathtaking loyalist if there ever was one – also a woman that clearly signals that Orbán plans to destroy the field) created a working committee to investigate ways to counter this cloud-based menace that doesn’t respect land borders and masculine political authority.
Naturally, they can point at all the stupid things Facebook and its wannabe government censors in the West do. But that doesn’t make them right. Just listen to the lunatic terms they invented to describe that nasty Facebook hurt them and they need the right to be racist on taxpayer money to serve their Master better:
- Digital mammoth companies work as “powers that compete with the state” so the latter can
- “simply make their services unavailable on the internet as last resort” (that means blocking Facebook)
The latter came from the mouth of the head of the aforementioned reverse human right government agency.
- He accused social media companies of spreading “homosexual propaganda” and offering their infrastructure to “organize migrants”.
- The “global liberal conspiracy” consists of ideologically driven algorithms and weed out the non-liberal opinions. (Clearly, he hasn’t bee online for a while – if ever.)
- “Cloud-based digital power exertion”
And before you point out that social media companies are also in the wrong about privacy or tax issues – that may be true but that doesn’t make Orbán right. The issues is that the Orbán government doesn’t tolerate competition in the manipulation of its subjects. And that it wants to brainwash them and even the thinnest of channels of dissenting views is untolerated. After all, this government is not famous for refraining from the mishandling of citizens’ data. Neither do they care if citizens’ conversations are recorded by Facebook – they just want access to it themselves.
And that is something people should be more worried about than the data collection by social media companies, no matter how outrageous: that this data can end up in government hands. That is the end of freedom, not personalized ads.
Orbán is far from China-style digital authoritarianism, but make no mistake. He would if he could.