Details of Polish law protecting freedom of speech online

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Per the proposed legislation, social media cannot remove posts or block the accounts of Polish users if their content does not break Polish law. Serious penalties will be issued to sites that break these rules.

The new bill prepared by the Ministry of Justice is meant to protect the constitutional right to freedom of speech, as well as protect personal rights infringed upon by anonymous internet users.

“Freedom of speech and freedom of debate are the essence of democracy. Their negation is censorship of expression, especially online, where the majority of political debate and worldview conflicts are being held. Social media users must have the assurance that their rights are being protected,” Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said while presenting the new laws.

Much discussion was caused by the flagging and blocking of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s social media entries, as well as his eventual ban from social media at the end of his presidency. This new legislation of Poland’s almost precisely refers to the events associated with the blocking of Trump’s accounts.

Freedom of Speech Council

According to the proposed legislation, if an internet service bans an account or removes an entry, even though it does not break Polish law, a user will be able to file a complaint with the internet company that will have to be resolved within 48 hours. If it does not return the entry or maintains a ban, then the user may appeal to the Freedom of Speech Council, which will make a decision within seven days.

If the Council considers the appeal justified, it may demand the immediate return of the removed content or account. The procedure will be conducted electronically to ensure swiftness and low costs.

Depending on the Council’s decision, an appeal to a court of law will be possible. For not adhering to the verdicts of the Council or a court, the Council will have the right to impose an administrative fine on the social media site of between €11,100 and €11.1 million.

In the new bill, it is emphasized that the Freedom of Speech Council is a public administration institution that oversees the adherence by internet services to the right of freedom of expression. The Council is comprised of a president whose rank is equal to a secretary of state, as well as four members chosen by parliament.

The blind lawsuit

Another goal of the legislation is to protect personal rights infringed upon by anonymous internet users. The law entails the introduction of a new instrument, the so-called blind lawsuit. This allows people to file a lawsuit concerning the protection of their personal rights without specifying the personal data of the defendant.

All that is needed is the URL address of the post with the insulting content, as well as the date of publication and name of the defendant’s profile or user login.

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