by MACIEJ SWIRSKI
In November 2016, some time before most Americans became alarmed at censorship in social media, I sued Facebook. If you haven’t heard about this landmark case, that is understandable, because I sued in a Polish court.
I charged that, by suppressing open communication, the Silicon Valley giant had violated my rights under the Polish Constitution. After years of Facebook’s procedural delays, this past week, my case received its first judicial hearing.
Because of decades of savage Soviet and Nazi oppression, the free flow of information and opinion is perhaps an even more sacred constitutional principle in Poland than in the United States. As a teenager during the Solidarity strikes of 1980, I would sit with my ear to my radio, trying to hear Radio Free Europe and Voice of America through the howl of Soviet jammers. In Eastern Europe in those days, communist authorities censored everything, even laundry slips, let alone news. They strictly regulated access to information.
Poles who experienced communism are particularly sensitive to any attempt at stealing from the national patrimony the guarantee of "acquiring information." This is why the Polish Constitution — instituted after the 1993 withdrawal of occupying Soviet Russian forces — includes blanket protections for the unrestricted flow of information in all kinds of media. Poland’s dual provisions are in fact more explicit than those of the U.S. Constitution.
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