Orban’s party is Google’s largest advertiser in the EU, spreading anti-Western narratives.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party and its satellites have established new EU records for the volume of anti-Western social media advertising. The independent think tank Political Capital’s research has revealed this.

According to the report, while the pro-government camp spent 4.3 million euros on advertising on Meta and Google, all 14 opposition parties and their affiliated media spent less than a fifth of this amount—839,000 euros.

Only the Fidesz party and its politicians spent 2.0 million euros, 2.6 times more than the total expenditure of the 14 opposition parties, which was 764,558 euros.

Even by European standards, Hungary has an astonishing level of investment in internet political advertising.

Money for disinformation promotion 

The study’s authors claim that Fidesz and its proxies are the primary distributors of hostile misinformation narratives in Hungary, accounting for 98.6% of the total €2.0 million spent on spreading such narratives.

The research highlights the three most promoted narratives:

  • From February 4 to June 1, Péter Magyar, the newly elected opposition leader, was the target of the most heavily promoted hostile narrative, receiving 46% of all expenditures on such tales.
  • The second most promoted hostile narrative, accounting for 34% of total expenditures, concerns the war in Ukraine, claiming that “European pro-war politicians and their Hungarian minions want to unleash World War III.” The importance of this narrative gradually increased as the elections approached, and in recent weeks, it has overtaken and partially absorbed all other narratives.
  • The third most promoted hostile narrative, accounting for 9% of total spending, is about anti-government forces that allegedly serve foreign interests.

The Fidesz camp’s promotion of anti-Western, pro-Kremlin hostile disinformation narratives is consistent, according to a study that found that Fidesz MEPs are “soft defenders” of Russia and other authoritarian regimes in the European Parliament, engaging in pro-Kremlin discourse while deliberately abstaining from voting due to political and reputational risks. 

Furthermore, during Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Fidesz MEPs increasingly withdrew from voting on Russia-related topics, including voting against resolutions denouncing the Kremlin.

Orban’s opposition to the EU’s policy on Russia and Ukraine

Since assuming power two decades ago, Orbán’s administration has expanded the ruling Fidesz party’s control over the judiciary and state media.

The EU is worried that in Hungary, the government controls the majority of media, and for people in rural areas and small towns, government propaganda outlets are practically the only source of information about national and foreign affairs. 

European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová, expressed concern in 2020 about Hungary’s attacks on the media, warning that the majority of Hungarians do not have the right to express their free opinion.

Hungary has tried to block the EU’s support for Ukraine and the provision of weapons to Kyiv. It blocked a vote for the 14th package of EU sanctions against Russia. The new restrictions are contrary to the country’s interests, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said. 

The European Union was angered by Hungary’s stance, which goes against Brussels’s policy. Some diplomats said that Hungary’s constant vetoes indicate the need for changes in decision-making processes in the bloc, Euractiv reported.

Viktor Orbán opposes providing Ukraine with weapons but does not say how to stop Putin’s invasion. He also said that allowing Ukraine to use Western weapons against Russian territory would increase “the risk of NATO intervention” in a full-scale war that Moscow has unleashed.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban stated on June 6 that his country should stay out of the war, which he said would involve the EU and the world.

Belgium, which now holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, urges EU member states to consider commencing the process of revoking Hungary’s voting rights. 

Hadja Lahbib, the Belgian Foreign Minister, made this comment during an interview with Politico. She requested a no-confidence vote against Hungary under Article 7 of the EU Treaty.

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