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Hungary accuses Facebook of ‘censorship’ as clash with tech giant escalates

Budapest, Hungary – Earlier this week, the Hungarian government accused Facebook of “censorship” in the latest sign of growing tensions with the social media giant.

Mediaworks, a media company tied to Orban close associate Lorinc Meszaros which controls more than 90 national and regional publications in Hungary, announced on Wednesday that its advertising and publicity accounts on Facebook had been closed down, prompting the Hungarian government to accuse, the following day, Mark Zuckerberg’s social media of “censorship”.

Mediaworks itself is part of the Central European Press and Media Foundation (KESMA), a giant media conglomerate that was consolidated last November and includes nearly 500 pro-government media outlets.

Gergely Gulyas, an aide to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, said that “what has happened is unacceptable”. “We believe freedom of the press should prevail on Facebook, unlike the recent censorship”, he added.

“In light of recent reports about Facebook’s plan, it is obvious that the decision of the American company is based on political and ideological reasons”, Mediaworks content development director Zsolt Pauska said in a statement.

Facing mounting pressure from civil society groups and governments all around the world, Facebook, along with other major tech firms, has pledged to step up its fight against the spread of misinformation, fake news and extremist content on their platform.

Since Viktor Orban came to power in 2010, Hungary’s strongman has strengthened his control over the media sector, concentrating both private and public outlets in the hands of loyalists or close associates.

And as The Guardian points out, this is only “the latest attack in an escalating campaign against the social media giant” which continues to escape the Hungarian government and Premier’s grip on press outlets. But it is also the expression of Facebook’s “muddled approach” to policing online content in Hungary, that “appears to satisfy neither the government nor its critics”.