Recent Facebook Case Reinforces Anxiety in the Right
Ábrahám Vass 2018.11.14.
In a recent scandal, Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey was ousted from Facebook allegedly due to his support of Donald Trump during the 2016 election, Wall Street Journal reported. Recently, Facebook’s moderation policies have also become a matter of debate among pro-govt politicians and publicists in Hungary.
Ahead of the 2016 election, Luckey donated 10,000 USD to an anti-Hillary Clinton group. Then, according to WSJ’s article, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg helped dictate Luckey’s resulting public apology and pressured him into saying he supported libertarian candidate Gary Johnson for president. Luckey later hired an employment lawyer who negotiated a settlement with the company, arguing that Luckey had been illegally fired for his political views, bizjournals.com reported. Facebook executives, however, deny the claim and insist that Luckey was fired because of work-related issues and not due to his political views.
In previous months, the social media giant garnered a significant amount of criticism in Hungary. According to critics, Facebook is okay with taking a political stance, often ignoring freedom of speech and using censorship to silence rightist, anti-migration content and users.
The criticism coming from pro-government representatives came to a head in March when Facebook’s moderators—in the middle of an election campaign—removed former PMO chief János Lázár’s controversial video made in Vienna. In the inflammatory video, Lázár claimed that the Austrian capital had become “dirtier,” “poorer,” and “less white” since “migrants moved there.” A little later—perhaps because the video could fall within the boundaries of free speech—Facebook made the recording available again.
In October, the Facebook page of one of the journalists from pro-govt 888.hu became unavailable due to a meme. A picture of French president Emmanuel Macron posing with locals in Saint Martin, one of which was caught showing his middle finger, was juxtaposed with a picture of PM Orbán with his grand-child and captioned “You choose.” In a press conference, Fidesz-KDNP politician István Hollik heatedly criticized Facebook saying that “it is not for the first nor probably the last time that Facebook is openly assuming a political role. It does so by giving the role of moderation and censorship to a company funded by George Soros.”
Most recently, 888.hu’s blogger Gábor Megadja’s page was temporarily shut down because he posted a meme in which he changed the famed pro-CEU logo from saying #IstandwithCEU to #IstandwithMrPm. In addition, 888.hu publicist Gellért Oláh’s page was also banned for taking a stand with Megadja. Later, in an article, the site blamed left-liberal “snitches” for reporting the site in a communist-like manner, adding that “Facebook’s censorship has become unlimited.”
Being the leading social media site in the Western world with billions of users, the tech giant’s role and influence in political matters often elicit controversy. Although Donald Trump is often criticized on the site, experts agree that Facebook aided his election campaign in 2016. The company’s moderation principles are far from being clear. It can be difficult to police extreme and racist content when it technically exists within the boundaries of free speech. Hungarian tech site PC World analyzed how obscure Facebook’s moderation principles are. They noted that Facebook has become the primary source of information for many of its users and cited an expert who believes that Facebook has grown too big too fast and is now unable to effectively control the contents on its platform as a result.