Polish justice minister, Zbigniew Ziobro, announced the ‘Freedom of Speech Protection’ bill on January Friday 15, which will prevent social media platforms from censoring hateful posts, including anti-LGBTQ+ content. Social media platforms could face fines of 50 million zloty (£9.8m) for failing to restore posts or accounts which were deleted for breaching content guidelines. This means users will be free to post content which promote homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of hate speech.
Mateusz Morawiecki, the country’s prime minister, showed support for the bill, saying on Facebook that he opposed social media sites ‘censoring free speech’: “The censorship of free speech, which is the domain of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, is now returning in the form of a new, commercial mechanism to combat those who think differently. Often, the victims of 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.”
Despite Polish authorities insisting they believe in free speech, three LGBTQ+ activists recently went on trial for ‘offending religious beliefs’. Elzbieta Podleśna, Anna Prus and Joanna Gzyra-Iskandar joined a peaceful demonstration in 2019 where attendees criticised the Catholic Church’s treatment of LGBTQ+ people. They put images of the Virgin Mary with a rainbow background around a church, leading to their arrest. Amnesty International has called on Polish prosecutors to drop the charges against the activists, with more than 140,000 people joining an international campaign to free the three women.