Fakebooks in Hungary and Poland

The future of farcebooks

Unfortunately for the Polish and Hungarian governments and their supporters, such tech ventures have rarely been successful.

Eline Chivot, former senior policy analyst at the Center for Data Innovation, said government-backed ideas such as the recent “French Airbnb” are doomed for lack of credibility because they are based “on motives. politically biased and an application of industrial policy, [and] seek to dominate a market that is no longer up for grabs ”.

Indeed, Albicla became the butt of jokes from its launch, as users pointed out the numerous security and functionality flaws. Among them, some of the regulations for the new website were apparently copy-pasted from Facebook, as they included hyperlinks to Mark Zuckerberg’s site; more worryingly, it was possible to download the entire user database the day after launch.

Trolls immediately took advantage of the site’s loopholes to ridicule it, with countless fake accounts created for Pope John Paul II, Trump and PiS politicians. Despite being set up as an “anti-censorship” space, many users complained that they were blocked for unclear reasons within days of launch.

“Albicla is an ad hoc initiative by Polish supporters of Trumpism in direct reaction to Trump’s ban on social media platforms: it is the equivalent of moving right-wing radicals in the United States to Parler and other platforms like this, ”Rafal Pankowski, head of the Warsaw-based anti-fascist organization“ Never Again ”, told BIRN.

Pankowski points out that there have been similar initiatives before, including attempts to create a ‘Polish Facebook’, which have failed, although there is a local alternative to YouTube, wRealu24, which the expert describes as “Virulently anti-Semitic and homophobic” and whose popularity cannot be ignored.

Likewise, Hundub has been derided. Critics point out that this is just a simplified version of Facebook that looks rather embarrassing in terms of technology and layout. It has the same functionality as Facebook – you can meet friends, share content, upload photos and videos, and as an added feature there is also a blog format where you can post your own uncensored stories. Even the buttons are similar to the ones Facebook uses.

Hvg.hu recalls that the Hungarians actually had their own very successful pre-Facebook called iWiW (an abbreviation for “International Who Is Who”), which was launched in 2002 and became the most popular website in Hungary between 2005. and 2010 with more than 4.5 million registered users. Sadly, competition from Facebook forced it to close in 2014.

Hundub is unlikely to be able to challenge Facebook’s dominance, but Mérték Research media expert Agnes Urban said in an interview that Hundub could be used by Orban’s Fidesz party to rally supporters ahead of the 2022 election. and create an enthusiastic community of voters.

Founder Csaba Pal also explained that his goal is to create a social media platform for all Hungarians, which means “Greater Hungary” with his ethnic brethren in parts of Serbia, Romania, Ukraine and Slovakia.

Hungarian politicians, left and right alike, are very active on Facebook and, to a lesser extent, on Twitter. Prime Minister Orban, initially suspicious of digital, is now in the lead with more than 1.1 million followers on Facebook and has even chosen to announce a number of policy measures during the pandemic on his page.

Justice Minister Varga and Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, despite their frequent outbursts, are both avid Facebook users. It is not known whether any of their activities on Facebook have been censored or banned; the economic news site Portfolio recalls that the only political party to have been banned is the far-right Mi Hazánk party, whose leader, Laszlo Torockai, has also had his account deleted. No doubt they will be able to start from scratch on Hundub.

Albicla is also expected to benefit from his close ties to the Polish government, which since coming to power in 2015 has bolstered pro-government media through mass advertising of state-controlled companies.

According to a study conducted by Kantar this summer, the 16 companies and public institutions analyzed by the consultancy increased their advertising budgets for Gazeta Polska by 79% between 2019 and 2020 – a period during which most of the media lost publicity due to the pandemic. Gazeta Poska Codziennie, a daily affiliated with the same trust, saw similar gains. And the foundation of Gazeta Polska editor-in-chief Tomasz Sakiewicz also received millions of zlotys from public funds.

However, since the PiS came to power, media critical of the government, such as Gazeta Wyborcza, have seen their income from state advertising slashed.

In 2019, Gazeta Polska made international headlines by distributing ‘LGBT-free zone’ stickers with the magazine, at a time when PiS advisers across Poland were starting to push for resolutions declaring cities’ zones free of LGBT ideology ”.

Despite the hiccups of the launch, Albicla was immediately supported by high-level members of the government, including Piotr Glinski, the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, and Sebastian Kaleta, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice.

Kaleta is also the man in charge of a new online freedom of expression protection bill, announced in December by the Justice Department, that would prevent social media companies from being able to remove posts or block accounts unless the content is infringing. of Polish law.

The International Network Against Cyber ​​Hate (INACH), an Amsterdam-based foundation created to fight discrimination online, argued that “overzealous” policing of harmful speech is not a problem in Poland and that the new Polish law could mean, for example, online attacks against the LGBT community – which are not covered by national hate speech legislation – could go unpunished.

And where could these online attacks against the LGBT community be spread? Albicla, maybe.

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