Finding ways to regulate the excessive power of multinational technology companies will be one of the biggest challenges of the coming decades, Justice Minister Judit Varga said at an event at the Sziget festival.
The justice ministry will set up a working 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, as well as taxation and data protection, she said.
“The regulation of big companies that cannot be linked to specific countries and perform 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 called the current situation problematic because these companies 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 said.
The minister said it would be essential for the citizen 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 said.