Poland Strikes a Blow for Free Speech Against Big TechThe new law would limit the authority of social media platforms to censor posts or suspend accounts
In December, Poland’s Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro announced that the nation would pursue legislation to hold social media companies accountable for violating free speech rights.
The new law would limit the authority of social media platforms to censor posts or suspend accounts, allowing them to take such measures only when Polish law has been broken. The law would also provide citizens a legal remedy when they feel they have been censored without just cause by appealing to a special court.
The announcement was made in response to growing concerns that technological giants like Google, Facebook, and Twitter are squashing free speech rights.
Ziobro called the blocking and removal of online content an act of “ideological censorship,” whereby people are silenced who “express views and refer to values that are unacceptable from the point of view of communities…with an ever-stronger influence on the functioning of social media.”
Last week, Facebook suspended President Donald Trump’s account until after the January 20th inauguration, while Twitter has permanently banned him from its platform. The companies defended their decision by citing a “risk of further incitement of violence” after a group of protesters, upset about election results, broke into the Capitol building on January 6.th
On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffan Seibert responded to the censorship of the US President, saying that while social media platforms do “bear great responsibility” for hateful and violent content, freedom of speech remains a right of “elementary significance.”
“This fundamental right can be intervened in,” said Seibert, “but according to the law and within the framework defined by legislators – not according to a decision by the management of social media platforms. Seen from this angle, the chancellor considers it problematic that the accounts of the U.S. president have now been permanently blocked.”
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki joined in Merkel’s concerns in a Facebook post on Tuesday, condemning the actions of those wielding technological power. He called the internet “the most democratic mediom (sic) in history” and compared the current censoring of online free speech by social media platforms to the government censorship Poland experienced during 50 years of Communist occupation.
“Poland will always stand at the guard of democratic values, including freedom of speech,” Morawiecki wrote. “The owners of social media network cannot operate above the law. That is why we will do everything to define the frame of operations of Facebook, Twitter, Instargram (sic) and other similar platforms.”
Poland’s proposed legislation, titled “the law on freedom of expressing one’s own views and searching and disseminating information on the internet,” would establish the Court Defending the Freedom of Speech, a court specifically for the purpose of adjudicating cases in which Polish citizens have been censored online.
Under the proposed law, a social media user could submit a complaint in the event that their post or account has been censored. The social media company would have 24 hours to respond to the complaint. If the platform does not restore the post or account to the user, the user has 48 hours to file a petition with the Court Defending the Freedom of Speech, which would resolve the case within seven days.
If the court finds that the post was removed or the account suspended without just cause, the social media platform at fault would be compelled to restore the post or account. In addition, they could be fined up to €1.8 million (or US$2.2 million).
Justice Minister Ziobro called the legislation, which is only in the draft stage, a tool “that will enable both one side and the other to call for the decision of a body that will be able to adjudicate whether content appearing on such and such a social media account really violates personal rights, whether it can be eliminated, or whether there is censorship.”
See also: Many are questioning the sudden shutdown of Parler. One can only hope that courts see the move for what it is: an attempt to enforce a monopoly. Why is only Parler, but not other providers, held accountable for abuse on its platform? Something doesn’t sound right here.
Note: Here at Mind Matters News we have been covering a number of stories about Big Tech censorship and data grabs. Have a look, especially, at Google’s Secret Health Data Grab: the Whistleblower Talks: This is the fourth whistleblower in the last eighteen months.