By Allan Wall, February 26, 2021
Internet censorship by Big Tech companies is a big problem, a threat to our freedom of speech and our ability to organize politically.
Just look at the lead-up to the 2020 U.S. election, in which Big Tech carefully managed the flow of information to favor one candidate.
Powerful forces in our society favor open borders and don’t like websites promoting immigration restriction. Is this website, US Incorporated, free from future Tech censorship?
These are important considerations.
It’s interesting to see what the Central European nation of Poland is doing about it.
Poland was a communist country during the Cold War, a member of the Warsaw Pact and a Soviet satellite state. Our governments were enemies.
That’s all changed. Poland is now an ally of the United States.
In 2005, on a tour of duty in Iraq with the National Guard, I met some Polish soldiers who were part of our coalition.
Now the American and Polish peoples face the common enemy of Big Tech censorship. What are the Poles doing about it?
The Polish government has proposed legislation to fight Big Tech censorship. It would fine any Big Tech company that censors content that is legal under Polish law. The fine would be a hefty 13.5 million dollars.
Deputy Justice Minister Sebastian Kaleta (also a representative in Parliament) is the architect of this proposal. Kaleta has denounced Big Tech censorship of conservative, Christian, and traditional values content (sound familiar?) and the government of Poland wants to stop it.
This Fox News report of the proposal (click here) includes a short video in which Kaleta himself discusses the legislation, in English.
On February 21st, Newsweek allowed Kaleta to contribute an opinion piece entitled Why I Decided To Regulate Big Tech in Poland.
He begins the piece by quoting English poet John Milton’s 1644 plea for liberty of the press: “Give me the liberty to know, to utter and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.”
Possibly the use of the Milton quotation is a friendly rebuke of the Anglosphere, which developed both the contemporary concept of freedom of speech and the Internet. But now the latter is repressing the former.
Kaleta’s Polish perspective: “In Poland, we have watched with alarm as a consortium of ever more powerful, monopolistic Big Tech companies have done what was once unthinkable: de-platforming a sitting U.S. president [Trump]. For us, this example — which has alarmed presidents and prime ministers across Europe and, indeed, the world — is merely the straw that broke the camel’s back. The debate about who and what social media companies should be able to ban is now firmly in the public eye.”
Good point. If they can censor an American president, they can censor anybody.
Kaleta (pictured at the right) writes that, “At the heart of our proposal is an effort to guarantee Polish citizens their constitutional right to freedom of speech on major internet platforms.”
Poland’s difficult history taught it the value of freedom. As Kaleta puts it, “Poland suffered under Soviet-imposed Communism for 45 years and endured decades of censorship. We are particularly sensitive to any attempts to curtail freedom of speech: We do not seek the power to remove any content from social media; rather, we simply want to ensure that lawful content is not removed.”
(Kaleta himself was born in 1989, so he was just an infant when communism was falling in Poland. But he knows about it, and he understands the effect it had on his society.)
Kaleta’s hope for the future is that, “Polish citizens — and, hopefully, citizens of other countries as well — will soon be able to conduct themselves responsibly online without fearing that an unknown, unseen censor will suspend their account in the middle of the night.”
Any downsides? A criticism of the proposal, from the pro-freedom side, is that the law itself could allow the Polish government to practice censorship.
Like any law, it could be mishandled. Hopefully, the Poles will remember its purpose and not let it be used wrongly.
Kaleta finishes the opinion piece with this paragraph: “Take it from us. We Poles have seen aggressive censorship, and much worse, in the last century. It is time for democratic governments all across the globe to protect their citizens and restore the internet as a place for lawful, public discussion.”
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