Facebook Restores Hungarian Minister's Anti-Migrant Video
Facebook blocks Hungarian minister’ video for attack on racial, religious identity.
(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. removed and then reinstated a video of a senior Hungarian minister in which he tried to portray white people in neighboring Austria as living in fear of Muslims in a warning to voters before his country’s elections next month.
Facebook restored the video late Wednesday, hours after removing the footage for violating its principles forbidding comments that attack people based on their racial, ethnic or religious identity. The video by the head of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s office, Janos Lazar, is part of an intensifying anti-immigrant campaign by the premier’s Fidesz party ahead of parliamentary elections on April 8.
“Thank you, Facebook for the correct and quick action,” Lazar, who also oversees Hungary’s intelligence services, said in a Facebook post. He earlier said that blocking the video was “censorship” and he had protested the decision at the social-media giant’s European headquarters.
While Fidesz has held a steady lead in polls after a media offensive extolling its efforts to defend Europe’s “Christian heritage,” it suffered a painful by-election defeat in one of its rural strongholds last month. That setback appeared to further sharpen its attacks on what it portrays as Hungary’s main foes: immigrants, financier George Soros and, most recently, the United Nations.
For the video, Lazar traveled to a Viennese neighborhood to show what he said was the dirt and crime produced by immigrants from the Middle East, which wasn’t immediately apparent from the footage. Vienna has topped the Mercer consultancy’s global quality-of-living ranking for eight straight years.
Lazar said immigrants were pushing out locals from the neighborhood and leaving some schools without “white Viennese children.” He urged Hungarians to vote for his party to help avert that happening in his country.
“People use Facebook to challenge ideas and raise awareness about important issues, but we will remove content that violates our Community Standards, including hate speech,” Facebook said in a statement after the video was reinstated. “Exceptions are sometimes made if content is newsworthy, significant or important to the public interest.”
Lazar’s comments drew a rebuke from the city hall in Vienna. Renate Brauner, a city councilor, said on Twitter she was “bewildered and shocked” about Lazar’s narrative, calling it a “sad example of xenophobia.”
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz declined to comment. The nationalist Freedom Party, the junior coalition party which backs anti-immigrant policies and is close to Orban ideologically, said in a statement that the video was “inappropriate.” UN agencies have also accused Orban’s cabinet of racism and of contravening its legal obligations toward refugees and civil society.
--With assistance from Giles Turner
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