On April 4, the U.S. social media giant Facebook has decided to shut down yet another national conservative news site’s account, citing some violation of an image usage of a photograph depicting a baby’s pram. The news site was serving the Hungarian minority in Slovakia; its canceling on Facebook will mean that its 30,000 followers will not be able to access its articles and reports, nor express their opinions in the comment section. We have asked Judit Molnár, Ma7‘s editor-in-chief, to tell us about the circumstance of this latest scandal involving the increasingly partizan tech giant.
“The invisible power has won a battle – it has silenced the Facebook page of one of the leading Hungarian news sites in Slovakia, reported the conservative Ma7 newspaper.
What the editorial staff of Ma7 had been fearing for months has happened: on April 4, the social networking site completely blocked our page, it was impossible to post and share material, and the page was shut down completely. We had built up a community of more than 30,000 followers on the portal, which had been launched five years ago, and this work was over in a flash.
Like most conservative content providers, Ma7 had long struggled with Facebook, which was preventing our content from reaching readers. In the last six months, the restriction has taken a drastic turn. From the end of October, we were much less visible on the social network, and the reach of our articles dropped dramatically. Our posts reached ten times fewer people than before the penalty.
Like it or not, Facebook has become part of our lives, and in a few years it has become an inescapable arena of politics and public life. We have now reached the point where the mainstream press reaches most of its readers there. That was the case for us, until a warning appeared on our site in October 2022 that we had violated Facebook’s rules. As it turned out, one news story and two music videos were listed, one of which was from 2019.
The content was removed, despite our disagreement with this procedure, but Facebook did not change its mind and further reduced our reach. By 2023, the loss was drastic, at 90 percent, meaning that only 1 in 10 people had access to our posts.
The last penalty was completely surreal, we informed about a newborn baby allowance, the so-called ‘pram allowance’, illustrated with a pram, and this also got caught in the sieve, with the comment that we had already broken the rules in a series of cases, but this time we still did not get an answer as to how we had broken the guidelines.
We have written several letters in recent months asking for clarification of the decisions, and in February we asked our lawyer to refer our case to the social media site, but we have never received a reply. In other words, it is a farcical situation, because we do not know what the rules are, but there is a penalty for them.
It does not help even if we immediately remove the content that is apparently objectionable. We have never been told how long the penalty will last. Interestingly enough, this procedure is mainly encountered by content providers who are critical of liberal ideology, gender, woke and other such trends. It is also extremely insidious because it no longer seems to be penalizing content that it finds unacceptable, but rather completely indifferent material is caught up in its sieve, thus protecting the tech company from criticism of censorship.
The social media platform previously took action against several Christian pages.Continue reading
This is censorship at best, and the censors of the pre-1989 Communist dictatorship would have been envious of this procedure, because at least there you knew what was allowed and what was not. However, Facebook does not have this, and has a rather specific interpretation of the rules. We are dealing with a faceless, invisible power where there is no room for argument.
On 4 April, therefore, the Ma7 site became completely inaccessible, and 5 years of work and construction were lost in a single moment. Despite this, the editorial team decided not to give up, and agreed to launch a new site, so that our content could be delivered to readers on this platform.
For the time being, the public and European decision-makers are silent, even though everyone is aware of this non-transparent system, the censorship of opinions that Facebook has been representing lately. Until the decision-makers force Facebook to make the system transparent, there will be no change, and until then the invisible power can continue to censor and restrict or shut down anyone it does not like.
4 April 2023
The staff of Hungary Today and Ungarn Heute stand in solidarity with the journalists of Ma7.sk. We condemn Facebook’s ever tightening censorship against conservative content, and call for European legislators to step up efforts against this undemocratic practice.
Deputies representing the extra-parliamentary Mi Hazánk party will submit a proposal to restrict “harsh political censorship” exercised by Facebook, party leader László Toroczkai told MTI in a video on Friday. Toroczkai insisted that Facebook poses a “national security risk” in terms of its attempts to influence Hungary’s politics through a “dictatorial censorship” of opinion, which […]Continue reading