Poland vows to stop social media tech giants censoring free speech

Poland vows to stop social media tech giants censoring free speech

January 15, 2021

Poland vows to stop social media tech giants censoring free speech in wake of Twitter’s Donald Trump ban

  • Social media sites would only be allowed to ban accounts for breaking Polish law
  • Five-member ‘freedom of speech council’ would consider censorship claims
  • Several European governments have voiced concern over power of US firms 

Poland is drawing up plans to stop the likes of Facebook and Twitter from choosing which content to censor in the wake of Donald Trump’s ban from both websites.

The shutdown of Trump’s accounts after he incited a mob to invade the US Capitol has caused consternation even among his critics in Europe, with numerous EU politicians warning that it gives excessive power to US tech giants. 

In Poland, the draft legislation would mean that social media sites could only delete content or shut down accounts if they are found to have violated Polish law. 

The new law would also create a five-member ‘freedom of speech council’ tasked with reviewing complaints by social media users who say their accounts were unfairly blocked or censored.  

Donald Trump was banned from Twitter and Facebook last week but even his critics in Europe voiced concern about the excessive power of US social media firms 

Draft legislation in Poland would stop sites like Twitter from blocking accounts unless they are found to have violated Polish law

The new legal framework would require ‘global players’ to respect Polish law, justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro told reporters in Warsaw today. 

He added that ‘today social media decide for themselves what content will be censored.’

‘The law will provide tools guaranteeing the basic freedoms and liberties of Polish citizens on the internet,’ he said. 

The move comes days after Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki said he wants EU rules to defend free speech online and warned against “political correctness” by tech giants. 

Failure to comply with the new rules would carry fines for social media platforms ranging up to 50million zloty (£9.8million). 

Under the new law, Poland’s parliament would appoint the members of the ‘free speech’ council for six-year terms and politicians would not be eligible. 

The council would consider appeals from users who were blocked or had content removed, who would also be able to complain directly to Facebook or Twitter.

The social media sites would be required to respond within 24 hours, and restore access to the content if the complaint is upheld.    

Decisions by the council will be subject to appeal in a Polish court.

The closure of Trump’s social media accounts came after he incited a mob to invade the US Capitol to stop his election defeat being certified by Congress 

Trump’s Twitter account was permanently suspended last Friday after he caused the riot at the Capitol and continued to claim falsely that the election was stolen.  

His Facebook account has been suspended ‘indefinitely’ and at least until the inauguration of Joe Biden next week, Mark Zuckerberg announced last week. 

US internet giants have often been accused of holding too much power over social media, and many EU governments have battled them over regulation. 

Germany’s Angela Merkel was among those to voice concern about the shutdown of Trump’s Twitter account, with her spokesman saying she viewed it as ‘problematic’. 

‘The fundamental right to freedom of opinion is a fundamental right of elementary importance,’ her spokesman said. 

‘This fundamental right can be interfered with, but through the law and within the framework defined by the legislature, not according to the decision of the management of social media platforms.’ 

France’s finance minister Bruno Le Maire also voiced doubts about Trump’s ban, telling French radio that it should not be for the ‘digital oligarchy’ to regulate itself.  

And Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat, said that ‘we need to be able to better regulate the contents of social networks’. 

‘It is not possible for this regulation to be carried out mainly according to rules and procedures set by private actors,’ he said.  

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