Morawiecki defends far-right party spreading COVID conspiracies

Morawiecki and Michel met near the Polish-Ukrainian border to discuss eastern Europe’s current military and humanitarian situation. [EPA-EFE/Tomasz Gzell]

Following Facebook’s deletion of the page belonging to the opposition nationalist Confederation Party, the party and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki condemned tech giants for throttling free speech.

This party is a relevant force in Poland with 11 lawmakers in the Sejm and support that is around 6.81%, while some polls see it at around 10%.

Facebook announced today that it would remove the political party Confederation’s Facebook profile, saying that the party “repeatedly violates community standards”.

The spokesman of Meta, Facebook’s owner, justified the decision, citing the party’s violation of the social networking service’s rules by publishing disinformation related to COVID-19 and hate speech.

The page had 670,000 followers, making it one of Poland’s most popular political profiles.

The company explained that the Confederation party spread false claims concerning the protection offered by face masks and vaccines and the COVID-19-related mortality rate compared to that of flu.

Facebook also had repeatedly warned the party before removing its account, it added, something which the party denies.

Krzysztof Bosak, one of the party’s leaders, announced in an interview for Rzeczpospolita daily that Confederation would sue Facebook, calling Facebook’s decision an “interference aimed at narrowing the freedom of political choice before the upcoming political season.”

However, in its Facebook struggle, the Confederation found an unlikely ally in the Polish government.

Prime Minister Morawiecki spoke up in support of the opposition party, criticising social media for “cyber censorship”. In his view, the removal of the Confederation’s page breaches “the basic democratic values”, which the “Polish government would not accept”.

“Free speech has sense only if everyone can freely express his or her opinions, not violating other people’s freedom,” Morawiecki said.

Morawiecki defending the opposition party has fuelled the debate about the ruling Law and Justice party sympathising with the far right. In an attempt to silence such voices, Morawiecki stressed he and the Confederation had been often critical of each other, but “criticism does not mean forcefully shutting someone’s mouth.”

Earlier, Secretary of State for cybersecurity, Janusz Cieszyński, had criticised Meta for blocking the profile of a legal political party.

“This is not ok in a modern democracy, regardless of ones political views. We have to unite against political meddling by VLOPs with elections in several EU countries coming soon,” he said.

“The removal of parliamentary group profiles from social media by administrators of international platforms goes against fundamental civil liberties and cannot be accepted,” the Polish government said.

(Aleksandra Krzysztoszek | EURACTIV.pl)

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