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Poland: Government Approves Proposal to Create Registry of Banned Websites and Services

Yesterday the Polish government accepted the proposal to create a Registry of Banned Websites and Services. We wrote about the lack of transparency surrounding the creation of this law earlier this year on Global Voices. Yesterday's decision has generated a wave of protests on-line. The leading voice on the case, Piotr Waglowski, aka Vagla, author of a blog devoted to law and Internet issues [PL], posted an article the same day, in which he explained the legal procedures the proposal still faces before it receives a final approval. At this stage, the creation of the Registry of Banned Websites and Services has been officially proposed, but still needs approval of several governing bodies. In order to position this situation on the global arena, Vagla also points his readers to similar cases of breach of human rights by governments of other countries. Finally, he mentions that prime minister can expect letters from the public on the topic.

Vagla writes [PL]:

Mr Prime Minister can expect also letters prepared as a result of co-operation of several non-governmental organisations. One of those letters points out the lack of consultation with specialists in the field, another one the need to respect the basic rights in the legislative process. What will the Prime Minister do with those letters, I have no idea. It seems to be only the beginning of “determined actions” on the government's behalf.

One of the commentators of the post, michuk, points out that this proposal has a strong chance to be approved, so protest is required:

The law will be most probably quickly passed by the chamber of deputies – so it's time to act. I have written a LETTER TO PRESIDENT of RP convincing him to veto the law.

He is linking to the letter [PL] he wrote to the President himself, posted on stopcenzurze.wikidot.com [stopcensorship.wikidot.com] website, along with signatures of the supporters (NGO activists, professors, businessmen, lawyers, politicians, editors and bloggers), who signed this version of the protest with their actual names and links to their sites. Protesters have set up a Facebook fan page named ‘Stop Censorship‘ [PL], joined so far by more than 200 fans.

Reactions to the developments appeared on blogs, Flaker.pl, in comments to mainstream media articles as well as on Facebook, where people who feel strongly about freedom of speech and free access to the internet unite in protests.

Norbertrabarbar‘s reaction [PL] on Gazeta.pl's forum reflects the general mood of the public:

One cannot gamble? Not even on foreign portals? And what, we will have a list of sites we cannot visit, like in China?

And 6 hrs to unplug the website…so companies must have 24/7 admins…

I start to be scared of this system. Soon in order to get access to Internet one will need to send in an application form…

Kylax1 points out [PL] the uselessness of the governmental proposal:

In most developed Chinese censorship even teenagers can avoid it easily. Ideas of Tusk will not stop anyone apart from accidental gamblers.

Weegee touches upon [PL] the global nature of censorship thread:

I think the problem is deeper than our stupid authorities. And the worst bit is the fact there is no one we could report to on the breach of human rights, since this behaviour is becoming a trend and standard globally, so international tribunals will not do a thing (they would not risk creating a precedent of this type).

Witchinster opposes [PL]:

Poles will not give up if Tusk introduces censorship. There is TOR, there are systems allowing people to create an underground Polish Internet. It reminds me of the situation during the Second World War, when young adventurous Poles had to fight for what was theirs. It's a pity, though, that now a Pole is fighting a Pole.

Already yesterday heads of three Polish Internet associations – the Polish IT Association, the Polish Chamber of IT and Telecommunications, and Modern Poland Foundation – sent an open letter to Prime Minister Tusk, referring to the planned Internet censorship. Document is publicly available here (in .pdf format, PL).

Blackout Europe Polska is promoting freedom of the Polish internet and is planning [PL] a demonstration for Jan. 23 in Warsaw:

Demonstration: 23.01.2010 – 12:00 – Castle Square in Warsaw. Demonstration will most probably move to the Parliament. We welcome everyone, and most of all those who care for the future of the Polish Internet.

They are currently spreading the word on their blog [PL], but also on Twitter [PL] and Facebook [PL]. The poster with info on the demonstration circulates on the web and starts appearing on blogs [PL].

blackouteurope

Wykop (the Polish version of Digg) welcomes its readers with three links on their main page related to the issue: here [PL] (272 digs), here [PL] (315 digs) and here [PL] (280 digs). Blackout Europe's call for demonstration on Wykop [PL] alone has generated 483 digs. All of those links are followed up by comments entirely supporting the protests and expressing disagreement with the government's proposal.

Facebook users gather at the ‘Government Should Leave the Internet Alone’ fan page [PL] and are feeding links related to the issue.

Ewelina Dziubińska  sums it all up [PL] on her blog when inviting her readers to take part in the demonstration in Warsaw [PL]:

Together we can really achieve more, all we need is the desire to do so. Lack of reaction is really a sign of acceptance, so let's show that this generation will not allow manipulation and censorship.

For the next few days, if not weeks, we can expect more reactions on the topic from the Polish blogosphere.

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