Poland’s Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro introduced a “legal initiative” that would prohibit tech companies from censoring users unless the user breaks Polish law. The bill, which is expected to become law, would also allow users to sue tech companies and be awarded damages.
Poland has introduced a bill to protect free speech and it is expected to be passed. If that happens, the new law would prevent tech companies from removing posts without legitimate reason. Users whose posts are removed can file a complaint with the company and can also file a petition with a court. The bill was introduced as complaints about censorship by tech companies have grown across the West.
Poland’s Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said the aim of the law is “to give Internet users the feeling that their rights are protected and that their posts cannot be arbitrarily removed from online platforms.”
If the bill is passed, tech companies would only be allowed to remove posts or block accounts if they violated Polish law. If a post or account is removed or blocked, the user can file a complaint with the company. After the company’s decision, the user will have 48 hours to file a petition to have their access returned. The court will then decide within seven days.
“Often, the victims of tendencies for ideological censorship are also representatives of various groups operating in Poland, whose content is removed or blocked, just because they 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.”
Sebastian Kaleta, secretary of state in the Ministry of Justice, said that the new law “guarantees the possibility of expressing your opinions, as long as they do not violate the law. A balance must be found between the exercise of freedom and the abuse thereof. Today in Europe, censorship solutions are sought rather than to protect freedom of speech.”
If the court rules in favor of the user, the tech company can be fined 1.8 million Euros, or the equivalent of approximately $2.2 million.
In the United States, tech companies have faced criticism for censoring conservatives. Twitter has already confirmed that when President Trump is no longer in office his account can be banned.
Censorship by Big Tech in 2020 has been rampant, including censoring the New York Post’s coverage of the Hunter Biden story and locking them out of their social media account. YouTube recently announced it would increase censorship of any videos claiming election fraud.
In May, President Trump signed an executive order that removed the shield protecting communication companies from liability if they engage in censorship. Trump said that social media companies have “unchecked power.”
Congressional Republicans issued a report, saying, “Big Tech is out to get conservatives. Time and again, Big Tech uses its power to suppress and marginalize conservative voices.”
Censorship by tech companies is a recurring problem, as the large majority of Americans believe. According to a Pew Research Center study, “roughly seven-in-ten Americans (72%) think it likely that social media companies intentionally censor political views they find objectionable — with 35% saying they find this very likely.”
Poland has taken an important step in fighting censorship and protecting free speech. Tech companies have too much power over the flow of information to be protected from liability. Social media companies present themselves as neutral yet actively censor views they do not agree with, even suppressing news that people need to know.
In order for free speech to thrive, people must be allowed to engage with others’ views. By suppressing free speech, social media companies create a false narrative and control users’ access to information. It is incredibly dangerous to let that much power go unchecked.