Polish ruling Law and Justice Party ringleader, Janusz Cieszyński criticized Meta/Facebook for banning its right-wing rival Konfederacja due to spreading “COVID-19 disinformation” calling it “a pretext for destroying democracy.”
Cieszyński took to Twitter on Jan. 5 posting a public letter to Meta, the parent company of Facebook, commenting:
“Facebook blocked the profile of a legal political party in Poland. This is not ok in a modern democracy, regardless of ones political views. We have to unite against political meddling by VLOPs with elections in several EU countries coming soon. @Meta – who is getting banned next?”
Excerpts from the letter read: “Today Meta announced that it would block the official Facebook page of Konfederacja, a political party which has representatives in the Polish parliament,” Cieszyński, Poland’s Secretary of State for Digital Affairs wrote.
Cieszyński noted that he had “been informed that the blocking is due to the repeated spreading of COVID-19 disinformation on the party’s Facebook profile.”
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However, he assured the Polish government was “itself conducting a number of activities aimed at combatting” disinformation of this kind.
Democracy at stake
Nevertheless, he reiterated in bold print that, “on behalf of the Government of the Republic of Poland, I would like to protest your decision in the strongest terms and [call on you to bring] the profile back to Facebook.”
“I believe that this decision sets a dangerous precedent in which a legally operating political party, which enjoys considerable support and has a representation in parliament, loses an important platform where they can reach out to its voters,” he said.
He also argued Facebook is taking away “a major political discourse opportunity” from “both sides of the democratic process” — something Cieszyński defined as “the essence of modern European society.”
Cieszyński further warned against “Facebook community standards” being used as “a pretext for destroying democracy in which different views clash on an equal footing.”
PM Morawiecki voices his support
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki also weighed in, saying — on Facebook — that the ban “hit at the basic democratic values” of freedom of speech and opinion, dubbing it “cyber censorship.”
Konfederacja, or the Confederation for Freedom and Independence, is often criticized for being nationalist, xenophobic, Europhobic, anti-LGBT, etc. The party nonetheless holds 11 of the 460 seats in the Lower House of Poland’s parliament and can be a rival at times as well as an ally of the ruling PiS of Morawiecki and Cieszyński.
Morawiecki said PiS, he, and Konfederacja have often been at odds with each other but that having “criticism does not mean forcefully shutting someone’s mouth.”
Early last year, the Polish administration proposed a ruling to deter social media platforms from deleting posts and banning users on an impulse.
Poland’s Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro and his deputy Sebastian Kaleta, who crafted the draft legislation, intended to set up a Free Speech Board where social media users could appeal to if banned or censored, ordering tech giants to comply or else face massive fines.
“Whether someone’s content violates the law should not be decided by a foreign, corporate entity,” Kaleta said in an interview with Fox News at the time.
“We see that when Big Tech decides to remove content for political purposes, it’s mostly content which praises traditional values or praises conservatism… and it is deleted under their ‘hate speech policy’ when it has no legal right to do so… Freedom of speech is not something that anonymous moderators working for private companies should decide… Instead, that is for the national body; duly elected officials and all industries, car, phones, finance — were unregulated till they grew too large — the same should happen with Big Tech,” Kaleta said.