Poland Sets the Bar With Bill to Fine Tech Giants $13.5m Every Time They Censor Legal Free Speech

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by Matt Agorist, The Free Thought Project:

What started as a trickle of censorship when Donald Trump assumed the office of presidency in 2017 has since morphed into a draconian nightmare in which millions of people have found themselves with no voice online. Thanks to the censors in big tech and social media companies, entirely peaceful political views are being wiped from the mainstream discussion.

As anyone with half a brain understands, censorship does not stop ideas from spreading. Bad ideas need to be defeated in the public arena of debate. When you ban them, you not only prevent them from being defeated in the public arena, you give credence to those who espouse them. These tech giants know this, which makes their recent push for more censorship all the more worrisome.

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As we reported last month, three individual, unelected, unaccountable corporate monopolies (Amazon, Google, Apple) colluded to silence political content with which they disagreed. Joe MAGA, who may be on the verge of snapping, whose been unemployed for a year, arguing about ridiculous Qanon theories on Facebook, only to be banned and pushed to Parler, and then banned once more, is thinking to himself right now that the establishment is out to get him and he’s right. Unfortunately, thanks to this attack on anti-establishment voices, thousands of Joe MAGAs are likely googling the ingredients for pipe bombs, right now.

Just like the war on terror creates more terrorists, censorship is wind in the sails of extremism.

The reaction to the chaos at the capitol by big tech and the establishment has undoubtedly made things far worse, thereby allowing the feds to roll out even more draconian measures in the name of national security. Most Americans will accept these measures in the name of “keeping them safe,” and freedom will die with nary a whimper.

Though this is the case in the United States, in Europe, Poland is setting an example that could put this censorship leviathan in its place.

On February 1, 2021, the Polish Ministry of Justice issued a draft act on freedom of speech and social media. The legislation was originally proposed in December of last year but quickly became increasingly relevant in January as these tech giants took to banning the president of the United States — an act the Polish government decried as censorship.

As freedom of speech and political debate is a cornerstone of all free societies, the Minister of Justice in Poland has taken action to make sure social media companies cannot stifle it. The proposed legislation appoints a freedom of speech council which will be tasked with making sure legal speech cannot be unceremoniously wiped from the internet by big tech.

According to the National Law Review, the proposed bill acts as follows:

The draft act also provides that if a website blocks an account or deletes a certain entry, even though its content does not violate/infringe upon Polish law, the user will be able to lodge a complaint with the service provider. The provider must confirm that the complaint has been received and will then have 48 hours to consider it. If the provider dismisses the complaint, the user will be able to appeal that decision to the Freedom of Speech Council, which will consider the appeal within seven days. The proceedings before the council would be conducted electronically, to expedite the process and minimize the costs. The council will proceed in closed sessions. It will not take evidence from witnesses, parties, expert opinions and visual inspections, and the evidentiary proceedings before the council will boil down to evidence submitted by the parties (the user and the provider, represented by its representative in the country) or to information already known to the council.

If the council deems the appeal justified, it may order the website to immediately restore the blocked content or account. Thereafter, having received the order, the provider will have no more than 24 hours to comply. Failure to comply with the council’s order may lead to an administrative fine of up to PLN50,000,000 (i.e., €11,000,000, or $13,500,000). Such high financial penalties may prevent social networking services administrators from removing content, even if it is clearly harmful, out of fear of disputes as to such content’s legality.

In addition, the provider will not be able to limit access to content that has already been scrutinized by the council, even if the circumstances should later change and the entry proves to be unlawful after all. The council’s decision will be final and the new body will be able to limit its statement of grounds solely to an indication of the facts that it deemed evident and to quoting the legal provisions that constituted the legal basis for the decision reached, which may, in fact, deprive the provider of the right to appeal to the administrative court.

The Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro points out that because most political discourse and debate takes place online, arbitrary censorship by internet tech giants infringes on people’s freedoms.

“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,” Ziobro stated.

“We realize that it is not an easy topic,” he continued.

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