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Judit Varga (center). Twitter

Hungarian Justice Minister says big tech should be regulated

The excessive power of multinational technology companies should be regulated and it will be one of the biggest challenges of the coming decades, says Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga.

Published: August 13, 2019, 10:29 am

    Budapest

    Varga spoke at an event at the Sziget festival on Sunday. The justice ministry will set up a work group to review issues such as the boundaries of freedom of expression and the censorship exercised by big tech companies such as Facebook and Google.

    Also, taxation and data protection will be also be examined by the work group, she said.

    The regulation of big companies which engage in cross-border activities needs to be reconsidered at both EU and national level. “Tech companies are not transparent, they cannot be controlled, they do not necessarily pay taxes where their income is generated,” the minister said.

    Varga singled out such companies since they are “increasingly acting as political and social operators all over the world”.

    “They do not just focus on shaping the world in their own area, but also try to impose the world view of their owners on their users. For example, it is not Facebook’s job to censor certain news related to migration,” she pointed out.

    The minister said it has become essential for ordinary citizens to know how to navigate in digital space, to be aware of who at the tech companies censor their posts and based on what criteria.

    Currently, Facebook has 5,4 million Hungarian users and Instagram has 1,9 million, so Hungarians have an active presence in digital space, she added.

    “Ursula van der Leyen, the new EC president, also mentioned the need for (tech companies taking their) ‘fair share’”, Varga said. “If tech giants use our virtual spaces for their own purposes, they must contribute to burden sharing. The initiative for the taxation of digital services has stranded at the European Council but the topic is constantly on the agenda and the OECD is also addressing it,” she added.

    Moreover, according to Varga, the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been enjoying astounding respect in Brussels because he defends national interests. Foreign politicians “go behind closed doors to congratulate him, shaking his hand,” she said.

    At an EPP meeting a Finnish colleague at the table opposed the Hungarian position, “practically apologized” for her behavior later, Varga said, adding “but what can a Finn understand when they didn’t even experience feudalism?”

    Orban has pointed out that former communist ideologues believed in an international world order, but since the collapse of the socialist system, this belief has been taken over by liberals, who now believe that their ideology will bring everlasting happiness and well-being for humanity.

    This “liberal, international programme” tolerates no exceptions because those who stand in their way stand against the alleged universal good of mankind, he said. These liberal democrats believe that the time has come to realize their plans, but countries like Hungary, Poland, Austria, Italy, and the Czech Republic should step forward, refusing to accept their universal premise, Orban added.

     

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