Poland plans to make censoring of social media accounts unlawful | Poland
Polish government officials have denounced the disabling of Donald Trump’s social media accounts, stating that a bill being prepared in Poland will make it illegal for tech companies to take similar action there.
“Algorithms or the owners of corporate giants should not decide which views are correct and which are not,” wrote Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Facebook earlier this week, without directly mentioning Trump. “There can be no consent to censorship.”
Morawiecki indirectly compared social media companies making decisions to remove accounts to Poland’s experiences during the communist era.
“The censorship of free speech that is the domain of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes is now returning in the form of a new commercial mechanism to combat those who think differently,” he wrote.
Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS), which is ideologically aligned with Trump on many issues, has itself been accused of attempting to restrict freedom of expression in recent years.
Some of its members have made it a habit to publish rhetoric against LGBT people or against refugees. However, government officials have long claimed that right-wing people in Poland and abroad have been the victims of biased decisions by international technology companies.
Sebastian Kaleta, State Secretary in the Polish Ministry of Justice, said Facebook’s decision to remove Trump’s account was hypocritical, politically motivated and “synonymous with censorship”.
He said the draft law prepared by the Ministry of Justice would make it illegal for social media companies to remove posts that do not violate Polish law.
“Removing legitimate content would be directly against the law, and this must be respected by the platforms operated in Poland,” Kaleta told the newspaper Rzeczpospolita.
In recent years, Facebook has tried several times to block content from right-wing extremist Polish organizations and politicians. MP Janusz Korwin-Mikke, who joined the Konfederacja party, was banned from his account of 780,000 followers in November in what Facebook described as repeated violations of community standards. Korwin-Mikke accused Facebook of being run by “fascists and Bolsheviks”.
Under the provisions of the Polish draft law, users could file a court motion to force social media companies to remove recovered content if they believe it does not violate Polish law. The court would rule within seven days and the process would be entirely electronic.
Morawiecki asked the EU to introduce similar rules. Other European politicians, including German Angela Merkel, also expressed discomfort at the Trump ban through various social media. A new EU proposal, the Digital Services Act, introduces stricter rules for tech companies, including stiff fines for not blocking illegal content.
Katarzyna Szymielewicz, president of the NGO Panoptykon, said that the proposed Polish law on paper “is quite in line with what civil society has fought for against arbitrary online censorship” and that national laws are a better measure of its content being allowed online as arbitrary decisions by technology companies.
However, there is a clear political context behind Polish law, even if on paper it coincides with the direction of the EU-wide proposals, which could take two or three years to implement.
“It would be much smarter to concentrate on creating mature, solid EU-wide regulation together,” said Szymielewicz.
PiS officials have made it clear that they believe their fight against tech companies is part of an ideological struggle to defend right-wing and far-right political positions.
“Every day there is more news from the US about the mass removal of accounts criticizing the left. Defending freedom of expression is once again the greatest challenge facing conservatives around the world,” wrote PiS MEP Patryk Jaki on his Facebook account.