Net Censorship in Poland: Over 75 thousands of people protest against the government decision to filter the Internet

This article is a reprint from polishlinux:

Polish government wants to enforce Internet filtering to eliminate online gambling and child pornography. Everything for the benefit of our children, as this is the argument which is hard to stay against.

However, a notable group of Polish lawyers, journalists, academics, enterpreneurs, politicians and bloggers think otherwise and signed a letter (written by myself, btw) to President of Poland, Lech Kaczyński, asking him to turn the law down (in Polish legal system, president has the right to do this, but the parliament can then overcome president’s opposition if 2/3 of the delegates vote for it).

Here is the translation of the letter:

Dear Mr President!

We are addressing You to raise issue crucial for every Polish citizen using Internet. By pushing ahead so called ‘Anti-Gambling Law’ government of Donald Tusk is proposing, in the name of fight against gambling, to claim the right for filtering of all content available on-line. The Art.179a of Telecommunication Law, introducing ‘Registry of Banned Websites and Services’ is supposed to allow that.

It is a very dangerous idea which contradicts the interest of citizens. The statement that Internet should be governed by the same law as that referring to any other part of public space might be valid, however realisation of the above postulate has nothing to do with the constitutional right to freedom of expression. The planned changes in law are simply new way of censorship, very well known to You from previous system. Similar regulations allowing governments unrestricted filtering of content available for citizens are currently in place only in few countries of the world. Amongst those You will find for instance Iran and China. Do we really want Poland to join them?

Internet is a public space enabling expression and exchange of opinions. Thus the top to down filtering of Internet can be only compared to closing citizens mouths before they even start to speak up. It is something that even George Orwell did not imagine in his famous novel “1984″ about vision of totalitarian state.

What can be done towards following the law on the Internet then? Exactly the same as in case of breach of law related to rights of fellow citizens! Those who brake the law need to be simply prosecuted. If a website contains materials banned by law (including treacherous child pornography or content promoting Nazism or hate), we have appropriate mechanisms in place to punish those who are responsible for them. It is more difficult then the top to down filtering, as it requires separate analysis of each case. However does it mean, that for this very reason we should sacrifice our freedom of speech?

In May on the website we have collected 75.000 confirmed signatures against possibility of Internet censorship in European Union. No one really expected at that point of time that similar problem might occur in our own homeland.

We hope that having in consideration freedom as major value in a democratic state, You will decide to veto this disadvantageous for citizens proposal.

With regards,

Borys Musielak, creator of Grupa Jakilinux, author of this letter

And the undersigned [list of Polish lawyers, journalists, academics, enterpreneurs, politicians and bloggers here]

(big thanks to Sylwia Presley for the translation!)

Everyone is welcome to sign the petition opposing net neutrality violating law. We already have 75 thousands of signatures and counting!

You can also join the “Stop Cenzurze” group on Facebook to show your stance.

It’s a very important moment for Polish Internet users and for the whole European Union as Poland would be the first country after the passing of the Telekom Package that actually uses the opportunity to censor the Internet. The only other nation in Europe (not EU though) that has similar law is totalitarian Belarus.

Borys Musielak
Phone: +447972761605 (UK mobile)

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