Hungary Joins Countries In The War On Fake News Reducing Citizens’ Free Speech Online

By Aaron Kesel

Hungarian authorities are using crisis powers to begin arresting citizens for allegedly spreading fake news related to the CV pandemic as ordered by Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Bloomberg reports:

The government changed the criminal code to allow authorities to jail people for up to five years for “distorting” facts in a way that’s deemed to hamper the virus fight. The amendment accompanied legislation that gave Orban the right to rule by decree for an indefinite period, which has raised alarm about the future of Hungarian democracy.

Since the law’s approval in late March, authorities have started 86 criminal probes for alleged scaremongering, according to official data. The opposition Momentum party said that one of its supporters had been briefly detained Wednesday after a Facebook post sharing details about an anti-government protest.

Hungary isn’t the only country that is using the CV crisis to push draconian laws on its citizens. Activist Post previously reported early on during the CV outbreak that two individuals were arrested under Thailand’s new “Anti-Fake News Center” for spreading false information about the coronavirus. Malaysia also issued four arrests of its citizens for spreading rumors and “disinformation,” according to a report by Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post. Those “suspects” included a tutor, two pharmacy assistants and a university student whom if found guilty will face upwards to a $12,000 fine and up to 1 year in prison if convicted.

Then there is China, which arrested 8 people who were charged with spreading rumors about a virus before the coronavirus was publicly known. Beyond that, China recently highlighted what can be done with such a law by censoring a media outlet Caijing, which is one of the most reputable outlets in the country. In the article the authors claim that China has significantly under reported both the cases and deaths, especially among the elderly. (archive) (translation)

Another country, Singapore, on April 1st proposed a law to combat online fake news. Under the draft law, those who spread online falsehoods with a malicious intent to harm public interest could face jail terms of up to 10 years, Reuters reported.

In 2018, Malaysia’s previous government led by the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition was among the first few countries to introduce an anti-fake news law, as Activist Post reported. The law passed in April last year makes it a crime for someone to maliciously create or spread fake news, and anyone found guilty can be imprisoned for up to six years and fined as much as RM500,000 ($115,340), Straits Times reported.

Germany also passed a law in January 2018 for social media companies to quickly remove illegal content such as hate speech, child pornography, terror-related items and false information from their sites, BBC reported. Sites will be given a 24-hour deadline to remove banned content or face fines of up to 50 million euros ($54 million). However, Germany is  facing difficulties enforcing their laws in a way that doesn’t unintentionally also target legitimate content. Germany’s government is now reviewing the possibility of revising the law because too much legitimate information is being blocked.

In March, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law tough new fines for Russians who spread what the authorities regard as fake news or who show “blatant disrespect” for the state online, Reuters reported.

Authorities may block websites that do not meet requests to remove inaccurate information. Individuals can be fined up to 400,000 roubles ($5,415) for circulating false information online that leads to a “mass violation of public order.”

The fact that anyone would be arrested for spreading information not sanctioned by governments, when everyone is on edge and wondering what is happening, is in itself insanity — welcome to the Ministry Of Truth. Whenever governments get involved in policing the media there is always the possibility of corruption and a reduction in genuine free speech and freedom of information.

**By [@An0nkn0wledge](**

Aaron Kesel writes for Activist Post.

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