Protesters held up makeshift banners that read "ERROR!" and "How many times do you want to skin us?" Reuters reported. More than 100,000 Hungarians rallied in what experts say shows a growing discontent among younger citizens against Prime Minister Viktor Orban's policies to centralize power and shrink private enterprise.
Amid the growing public outcry, Orban's administration has denied any anti-democratic agendas.
...It's not just Hungarians who are worried about threats to the Internet. Preserving a free and open Internet is a major issue in the U.S., where the debate on network neutrality pits consumers against large telecom companies that aim to exploit technologies by monitoring and controlling data sent via their networks. Certain companies will have to pay to use "fast lanes," a paid prioritization model that will make companies pay for better, smoother access for consumers.
In addition to potentially rising costs, telecom companies including Comcast, Verizon and AT&T are also censoring information, according to evidence of abuses gathered by the American Civil Liberties Union. In late 2007, Verizon Wireless took away access for a text-messaging program by the pro-abortion rights group NARAL, which the group used to send messages to its supporters.
In the same year, Comcast, the nation's largest cable TV operator, discriminated against an entire class of online activities by blocking file transfers from customers using popular peer-to-peer networks such as BitTorrent, eDonkey and Gnutella.
To prevent against blocking or discrimination, the Federal Communications Commission acted in recent years to enforce rules. But in January, a major court decision stripped the FCC of its power to enforce network neutrality protections under the regulatory framework it was using, the ACLU documented.
If the FCC's proposal passes at the end of the year, it would end up greatly restricting how Americans use the Internet.
During the height of the Arab Spring in the Middle East, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that Internet access was a fundamental human right. For the thousands of Hungarians that took to the streets this week — and thousands of Americans fretting over net neutrality at home — these policies aren't just an inconvenience: They're a threat to democracy as we know it.