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nedelja, 7 marca, 2021

Sweden Democrats: tech giants must be held accountable

By: V4 Agency

Tech giants have no right to restrict freedom of speech online, a lawmaker of the Sweden Democrats party told V4NA. Tobias Andersson spoke about the emerging phenomenon of online censorship in Sweden, as well as his party’s plans to redress the issue.

Politicians and media representatives in a growing number of countries have spoken out against online censorship, which tends to target right-wing, conservative platforms and actors. Poland is planning to take strict measures to put an end to this practice. The so-called Council for Freedom of Speech Online will be tasked with investigating disputed cases, and its members will be elected with a 3/5 majority by the Sejm – the lower house of the parliament – to ensure impartiality.

Restricting free speech is also a palpable problem in Sweden. The most recent case concerns YouTube’s removal of SwebbTV, a  major opposition media outlet with 65 thousand subscribers, and its deletion of all the channel’s contents. Recently, five of Sweden’s largest alternative media outlets have organised a daily blackout to protest against the censorship.

In a joint statement, the five media outlets pointed out that the Swedish government was seeking to shut down as many alternative, anti-migration, right-wing, conservative media platforms as possible. They also highlighted that Sweden’s left-wing government supported tech giants by pushing through a major reduction in the electricity tax for Google and Facebook, decreasing it from the residential value of 41,38 ore/kWh to 0,5 ore/kWh. Google received some additional subsidies and the Lofven government also provided 2 billion dollars in support to the companies.

In their statement, the news portals called on the government to implement prompt measures to ensure freedom of speech and opinion online (a right guaranteed and protected by the Swedish constitution) especially on the platforms of Google, Youtube and Facebook that are, “in part, state-sponsored.”

Politicians from the Sweden Democrats (SD) party have spoken out against internet censorship on several occasions and, in a recent interview with V4NA, MP Tobias Andersson explained in detail the right-wing party’s views.

Andersson said SD was opposed to blocking SwebbTV, adding that such censorship could lead to a world where online free speech could be regulated by a tech oligopoly. The companies in this monopoly would an immense power over society and elections, enabling them to undermine democracy, the politician said. Tobias Andersson added that there was no quick fix to the problem, but they were paying particular attention to the situation in Poland, where plans are afoot to regulate internet censorship.

Tobias Andersson
Tobias Andersson

The Sweden Democrats are also taking steps and the MP told V4NA that they are working to end the current situation. At the EU level, the party is dealing with the EU’s Digital Services Act and, at a national level, it is raising awareness to the harmful effects of internet censorship.

SD’s position is that big tech companies have no right to restrict free speech on the internet, Tobias Andersson said. The fact that they are private companies is no excuse for such behaviour and it is not something they can use in their arguments when restricting the access of visibility of certain contents. According to SD, tech giants should be held accountable if they censor people who otherwise publish legitimate content.

Tobias Andersson is someone who has first-hand experience on the subject as his Instagram was banned without any prior warning or explanation. He said he only managed to have the ban lifted quickly because, being a lawmaker, he was able to put pressure on Instagram’s owner, Facebook. Nevertheless, his account remained inaccessible for three days which,a ccording to the politician, would have cost him dearly in the midst of an election.

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