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Sunday, January 17, 2021

Poland Proposes Bill to Protect Freedom of Speech on Internet

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has announced that Poland will introduce laws to protect freedom of speech on the internet, while denouncing Big Tech for stifling free speech on social media platforms. The criticism came after prominent social media companies banned President Donald Trump’s accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Morawiecki on Wednesday wrote on Facebook that the internet, with time, has come to be dominated by international corporations that treat people’s online activity as a source of revenue and a tool to increase their power. “They have also introduced their own standards of political correctness, and they fight those who oppose them,” Morawiecki added.

“Discussion consists in the exchange of views, not in silencing people. We do not have to agree with what our opponents write, but we cannot forbid anyone from expressing views that do not contravene the law,” Morawiecki said.

Poland will adopt appropriate national laws to regulate the operations of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other similar platforms, the Prime Minister said.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki speaks at a concert to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp in Berlin, Germany, on Jan. 27, 2020. (Wenzel – Pool/Getty Images)

“Everything which is not forbidden is allowed. Also on the internet, there is no tolerance for censorship, nor can there ever be,” Morawiecki said.

Poles experienced firsthand state censorship during 45 years of communist rule, during which they were told what to think and what they were not allowed to think, say, or write, Morawiecki said. “That is why we are so concerned with any attempt to limit freedom.”

Polish Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro announced at a press conference in December that his ministry had been working on a proposal of new regulations to protect freedom of speech on the internet and to protect people on social media against false information.

The proposed legislation would prevent social media platforms from deleting posts or blocking user accounts at their discretion if the content posted on them does not violate Polish law, said Deputy Minister of Justice Sebastian Kaleta in a statement.

If the user content is removed or the account is blocked, the user would have the right to submit a complaint to the social media platform, Kaleta said. A complaint could also be filed with a social media network if a post violated Polish law. The complainant would be able to request to block it.

In both cases, the platform would have to resolve the complaint within 48 hours, according to the statement. If the user is not satisfied with the resolution they will have a right to appeal to a new specialized Court for the Protection of the Freedom of Speech. The court will be obligated to consider the case within seven days and the proceedings will be entirely electronic.

The proposal also provisions for a “blind lawsuit,” which can be filed by anyone whose personal rights are infringed on the Internet by an unknown person, the statement said. The plaintiff will need to provide to the court only the URL (website address) of the site where the offensive content was published and the user name or user ID.

The proposed solution has been compared to regulations governing speech on the internet in France and Germany. The regulations in these countries focus “on the quick removal of content that is considered to violate the law of a given country, and not on the protection of freedom of expression,” the statement said. For example, in Germany, a hefty fine may be imposed on a social media site that breaks the law and the minister of justice decides whether a post violated the law.

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