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Ordo Iuris: Censorship of content on social media websites is against the law
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- In recent days, there have been further cases of removing content and online profiles on conservative and patriotic topics through social networking sites, including Facebook and Youtube. This shows that, although discretionary and arbitrary removal of content by social networks today is inconsistent with applicable law, additional statutory guarantees of freedom of speech are needed online - informs Ordo Iuris Foundation Institute for Legal Culture.

The wave of deletions of profiles of users of social networking sites, including Facebook and Youtube, is growing, presenting conservative and patriotic views. A few days ago, the administration of Facebook blocked, among others account of journalist Rafał Ziemkiewicz. It happened shortly after the information about the fact that the Minister of Digitalization withdrew from work on the preparation of the draft amendment to the act on electronic services, which was aimed at ensuring adequate protection for consumers using social networking sites.

It is worth noting that on the basis of existing regulations, arbitrary deletion of profiles undertaken by social networks is an illegal activity. Social networks whose services are used by residents and citizens in the Republic of Poland are obliged to apply Polish legislation. It is inadmissible, in particular, to create regulations and apply practices that allow the entrepreneur to arbitrarily interfere in the shape of the service. For example, the provision according to which the entrepreneur is entitled to make a binding interpretation of the contract for the consumer is legally unacceptable. It is expressly prohibited by art. 3853 point 9 of the Civil Code. Art. 3853 item 9 of the Civil Code excludes the possibility of a consumer's contractor's right to terminate the contract concluded for an indefinite period without indicating any valid reasons and the relevant notice period. Doubts are aroused by point 14 of the Facebook Rules, which provides for the possibility of disabling access to the portal in the event of violation of the 'spirit of the rules', which are assessed by the company's employees. Also, the exclusion of the jurisdiction of Polish courts in consumer disputes, as provided for in the Facebook portal in point 15 of the Regulations, is an unlawful contractual clause (Article 3853 point 23 of the Civil Code).

It should be remembered that in the letter of March 2017, constituting a response to the Ordo Iuris prepared list of violations of consumer interests from Facebook, the President of UOKiK confirmed the position presented by Ordo Iuris, according to which users of the social network have the status of consumers. The President of UOKiK also noted that as part of the proceedings he is investigating, among others the issue of informing consumers about the principles of removing or blocking content posted on the site by users, as the Institute's experts pointed out.

It should also be remembered that the Constitution of the Republic of Poland prohibits discrimination on grounds of belief and guarantees freedom of expression of beliefs, and provisions on consumer protection deem prohibited practices consisting in division into groups based on ideological criteria and unequal treatment of consumers using the same service by the entity dominant in a given market.

In the face of the unchanging practice of discretionary deletion of profiles and content on social networks, it seems justified to create additional guarantees of statutory freedom of speech on the web. Although the draft amendment to the act on the provision of electronic services prepared in the summer of 2017 contained a number of provisions raising doubts from the perspective of proportionality of the funds contained therein to the assumed goals, in particular solutions that would make procedural guarantees of consumer rights in disputes with social networking sites deserve recognition. To a significant extent, it can be a reference point for further legislative work.

The lawyers of the Ordo Iuris Institute offer free legal assistance to Internet users injured as a result of blocking or closing their facebook profiles. If you are interested in getting such help, we encourage you to contact: consumers@ordoiuris.pl. We will also be grateful for any information regarding the inclusion in Facebook regulations of prohibited provisions or interpretation of the provisions of the contract in a manner inconsistent with Polish law and the rules of social coexistence.

for: Ordo Iuris
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