Few people point to Poland as a beacon of democracy and freedom. Making a point about the bounties available in America, motivational speaker Jim Rohn used to say, “People haven’t saved and scrambled, saying, ‘Oh, if I can only get to Poland, everything will be okay.’” And he was right. Liberals like to deny the reality of American exceptionalism, but the simple fact is that people from all over the world know that there is something unique and special about our country. It may not be a land of granted wishes, but it’s damn sure a place where you can have anything you want if you’re willing to work for it. It is a light of independence and liberty unlike anything in 6,000 years of recorded history.
So imagine our chagrin when we learned that Poland is going forward with a legal initiative to make sure that social media companies uphold the free speech values of the country itself. At this point, it has to be said: Poland is doing more to uphold free speech than the U.S.
On Thursday, Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said that the legislation will block internet companies from removing online posts that do not conflict with Polish law.
“Often, the victims of tendencies for ideological censorship are also representatives of various groups operating in Poland, whose content is removed or blocked, just because they express views and refer to values that are unacceptable from the point of view of communities… with an ever-stronger influence on the functioning of social media,” Ziobro said.
“We realise that it is not an easy topic, we realise that on the internet there should also be a sphere of guarantees for everybody who feels slandered, a sphere of limitation of various content which may carry with it a negative impact on the sphere of other people’s freedom,” he continued. “But we would like to propose such tools that will enable both one side and the other to call for the decision of a body that will be able to adjudicate whether content appearing on such and such a social media account really violates personal rights, whether it can be eliminated, or whether there is censorship.”
According to the bill, if a government panel finds that a post has been improperly removed, the social media company can be subject to a fine of 1.8 million euros.
Some conservatives and libertarians will be uncomfortable with the government taking such a heavy hand in what is, at the end of the day, a private marketplace, but the days of pretending that Facebook and Twitter are just like any other companies are at an end. These are unprecedented platforms, and it is clear that they are not going to uphold the values of free speech without some significant coercion. Poland seems to get it.
It’s time for America to catch up.