New laws proposed by Poland could implement massive fines for tech giants who censor users or remove posts for ideological reasons, according to the country’s Deputy Minister of Justice Sebastian Kaleta.
Speaking to Fox News, Kaleta said social media companies have been targeting conservatives, Christianity, and traditional values by banning them or removing posts.
“We see that when Big Tech decides to remove content for political purposes, it’s mostly content which praises traditional values or praises conservatism,” Kaleta said, adding, “and it is deleted under their ‘hate speech policy’ when it has no legal right to do so.”
Under the new legislation, any platform that bans a user or removes posts for ideological reasons would face fines of $13.5 million unless the content is also illegal under Polish law. An arbitration committee will be set up to oversee disputes.
Poland’s decision comes following the banning of former President Donald Trump’s accounts by the social media companies Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, after he was blamed for inciting violence at the Jan. 6 demonstration at the U.S. Capitol.
“Freedom of speech is not something that anonymous moderators working for private companies should decide,” Kaleta said.
“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.”
“It’s very disturbing because if Big Tech sees themselves as an organization empowered enough to ban a sitting president of the U.S., it sends a message to the world—that we can ban anyone, whenever we want,” he added.
Advancing the new legislation, Kaleta noted that Poland has spent 45 years under communism—an experience he said has taught it the value of free speech and the need to know when to draw a line amid disturbing new trends toward censorship.
Last month, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced the introduction of laws to protect freedom of speech on the internet, while denouncing Big Tech for stifling free speech on social media platforms.
In a lengthy Facebook post on Jan. 13, Morawiecki wrote that the internet, over time, has come to be dominated by international corporations that treat people’s online activity as a source of revenue and a tool to increase their global domination.
“They have also introduced their own standards of political correctness, and they fight those who oppose them,” Morawiecki added.
“We are now increasingly faced with practices we believed were left in the past. The censoring of free speech, once the domain of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, is now back, but in a new form, run by corporations, who silence those who think differently.”
“Discussion consists in the exchange of views, not in silencing people. We do not have to agree with what our opponents write, but we cannot forbid anyone from expressing views that do not contravene the law,” he added.
Morawiecki said the country would adopt appropriate national laws to regulate the operations of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other similar platforms.
Hungary is also following Poland in the fight against social media censorship, with Justice Minister Judit Varga last month stating that Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government will not tolerate intrusions on free speech.
In a Facebook post, Varga raised the prospect of sanctioning social media firms over what she called “systematic abuses” of free speech and indicated that she was going to submit a bill later this year to “regulate the domestic operations of large tech companies.”
She alleged that she herself had also been “shadow-banned” by Facebook, and complained that mainstream social media sites “limit the visibility of Christian, conservative, right-wing opinions” and accused “power groups behind global tech giants’ of having the power to decide elections.”
Varga said in her post the matter should be regulated at the European Union level, but said swifter action may be needed. “Due to the systematic abuses, however, we may need to step up sooner,” she said.
Reuters contributed to this report.