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After social media companies boot Trump, Poland doubles down on draft law to make ‘censorship’ illegal

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The Polish government is planning to ban social media companies from blocking accounts. A draft law in the country will make it illegal for tech companies to take similar action in Poland, reported The Guardian and Balkan Insight. Senior political leaders in the country, including prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki, have been critical of Twitter and other platforms for banning US president Donald Trump’s accounts after the violent attack on the US Capitol building. They accused the platforms of indulging in censorship.

Trump has been permanently banned from Twitter, after the social media company accused him of tweeting in support of the people who attacked the US Capitol on January 6. Facebook, meanwhile, has blocked Trump’s account indefinitely; COO Sheryl Sandberg has indicated that the company is unlikely to lift the ban. YouTube has suspended Trump’s account for a week, while Snapchat has put a permanent ban in place.

In a Facebook post from January 12, Polish prime minister Morawiecki — while never referring directly to Twitter or Facebook — said that social media networks “cannot operate above the law”. Sebastian Kaleta, secretary of state at Poland’s Ministry of Justice, reportedly criticised Facebook’s decision to remove Trump’s account as politically motivated and amounting to censorship. The new draft law prepared by his ministry would make it illegal for social media companies to remove posts that do not break Polish law, he said. 

  • This law will reportedly allow users to file court petitions to force social media companies to restore removed content if they believed it did not violate Polish law. The court would rule within seven days and the process would be electronic, reported The Guardian.

‘Lack of internet regulation has negatives’: Morawiecki said that while the freedom of an unregulated internet has positives, but also has several negative consequences. “[W]ith time, it became dominated by huge international corporation, wealthier and more powerful than many nations […] They have also introduced their own standards of political correctness, and the fight those who oppose them.”

“The owners of social media networks 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. In Poland we will regulate with appropriate national regulation. We will also suggest similar laws be passed in all of the EU.” — Mateusz Morawicki, prime minister, Poland (emphasis added)

Germany’s Merkel has expressed concerns on Twitter ban

Morawiecki said in his Facebook post that Poland will suggest similar draft laws in the rest of the European Union. Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel has already expressed reservations about the way Trump’s Twitter account was suspended, calling attention to the power of Big Tech firms in shaping public discourse.

In fact, even Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has expressed discomfort about his company’s actions. He said that while deplatforming Trump was the right decision, it did set a dangerous precedent. The ban, he said, showed the power of an individual or corporation over part of the “global public conversation”. Enforcing bans would “be destructive to the noble purpose and ideals of the open internet”, said Dorsey.

Indian politicians, too, unhappy with status quo

Indian politicians have also been critical of the bans on Trump. Tejasvi Surya, Member of Parliament from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, said that the Twitter’s actions were a wake-up call to the threat to democracies posed by “unregulated big tech companies”. He said that if Twitter could do this to Trump, a sitting US president, they could “do this to anyone”. Surya also called for a review of how internet intermediaries are regulated.

In the past, opposition Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi had said that safe harbour protections for internet intermediaries were no longer tenable. She called for an overhaul fo the legal framework.

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