I recently criticized the calls of Democratic leaders like House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff for greater censorship of the Internet and social media. Such calls have been growing for years but leaders like Schiff are citing the pandemic as a basis for speech monitoring and censorship. That opportunity has not been missed by countries like China which has used “fake news” on the pandemic to arrest dissident scientists trying to share suppressed information. Most recently, Hungary has started jailing people for up to five years, which political dissidents say is targeting political critics.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán decided to use the opportunity of the pandemic for the same type of speech controls with a change in Hungary’s criminal code. Dozens have been arrested for “distorting” the facts of the pandemic — the type of charge used by China against dissidents.
The bill also gives Orbán sweeping new emergency powers while notably not including a sunset provision.
In one case, a 64-year-old man in the town of Szerencs posted a criticism of the government’s response to the pandemic and called Orbán a “cruel tyrant”. He was promptly arrested and the police noted on its website that “a malicious or ill-considered share on the internet could constitute a crime”.
For those academics proclaiming that “China was right,”this is the future that these new censors are embracing. It takes a great deal to convince a free people to give up their liberties so these leaders including U.S. Democratic leaders are suggesting that free speech can actually kill you. If they are successful, the greatest loss to the Covid-19 could be free speech.