Twitter, Hungary & the Freedom of Opinion

 

Whether it be Facebook, YouTube or Twitter, so-called social media networks like these appear to take pride in claiming to be guardians of freedom of expression and democracy. But woe betide those who actually exercise their democratic right to freedom of speech and the expression of honest opinions which deviate from the mainstream narrative. Dare to express an opinion that goes against the established mainstream narrative, and your account on whichever social media platform that you are using at the time becomes at risk of being shut down.

 

 

One instance of recent online social media censorship is Twitter’s blocking of content from a young conservative German internet figure, known as NeverForgetNiki. NeverForgetNiki had never been in trouble with the German authorities prior, had never called for, nor incited, violence of any kind, and he has amassed almost 35,000 followers on Twitter, and maintains social media presence on other online platforms as well.

 

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Another example came at the end of September, with the temporary blocking of an account called About Hungary, which is a government-run Twitter account run by the International Communications Office of the Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister. Even by Twitter’s standards, it is highly unusual for the platform to block content from an account run by a national government. Interestingly enough, the blocking of About Hungary coincided with the European Commission’s publishing of its Report On the State of Democracy & the Rule of Law. This „coincidence“ is notable, as the European Union frequently clashes diplomatically with the Hungarian government over topics such as the country’s dealing with matters such as democracy and the national rule of law. Upon being asked for a reason as to why About Hungary had been blocked from posting content on the platform, Twitter simply responded by stating that About Hungary has „violated Twitter’s policy guidlines“.

 

Zoltán Kovács, the state secretary for international communications and relations, who runs the official Twitter account of the government, About Hungary. (via Zoltán Kovács Facebook page)

 

About Hungary has since been unblocked from posting content, but Hungarian Government Spokesman Zoltan Kovacs has since written a letter to Twitter, requesting comment regarding the platform’s blocking of an official government account. While Twitter has yet to respond to Kovacs’ letter, some Hungarian media outlets have reported that Twitter had allegedly blocked About Hungary “in error”. Precisely how one of the world’s largest and most influential social media platforms can simply block an official government account “in error” remains unclear.

 

Hans Deutschmann

 

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