How to regulate the dominance of multinational companies will be one of the greatest challenges of the upcoming decades. A working group is being set up within the Ministry of Justice to review how far the freedom to express opinion and the censorship practiced by the companies extend, and what the situation is within the fields of taxation and data protection. Minister of Justice Judit Varga spoke about the topic at the European Union Point at the Sziget Festival in Budapest.

“The regulation of large companies that cannot be linked to countries and which perform activities that extend beyond borders must be reviewed again at both European Union and national level. The functioning of tech companies is not transparent and cannot be monitored; they may not be paying taxes where their income is being realised”, the Justice Minister said in her lecture entitled “The EU and the Facebook Society – Challenges and Solutions”.

Judit Varga regards the current situation as concerning primarily because, as she stated, these companies are increasingly acting as political and social players in the world. “They are not only concentrating on making the world a better place within their own field, but are attempting to force a world view onto users in accordance with the beliefs of the owners who are behind them. For instance, it isn’t Facebook’s job to censor certain pieces of news relating to migration”, she declared.

According to the Minister, it is of fundamental importance how citizens are able to find their bearings within the digital space, and that they know who at the tech companies are censoring their posts and based on what factors. There are currently 5.4 million people in Hungary who use Facebook and 1.9 million using Instagram, meaning that people here are actively present in the digital space, she pointed out. “We are talking about a major challenge relating to fundamental rights; it must be clear to people who are guarding the guardians”, she noted.

According to Ms. Varga, the EU is also attempting to ensure that, in addition to personal fundamental freedoms, the freedom to express opinions is also not violated. But it is difficult to find suitable legal instruments for achieving this within the virtual space.

“I would be worth dealing with this area to a deeper extent, to see who at the multinational companies are making these decisions and according to what rules and transparency requirements. Ursula von der Leyen, the new President of the European Commission, has also mentioned the need for fair share. Just as the tech giants are using our virtual spaces for their own goals, so too must they contribute to shouldering the burdens”, Judit Varga said. “The initiative concerning the taxation of digital services has run aground in the Council for the moment, but the topic is continuously present, and the OECD is also examining the situation”, the Minister added.

(Ministry of Justice/MTI)