.
P

oland’s Law and Justice Party (PiS) took control of the government during the 2015 elections, winning the presidency and majorities in both houses of parliament. Since then, PiS have increasingly sought to manipulate the media and attack pluralism to retain influence and power. PiS exert direct influence over media outlets that they control, and they attack media outlets that they can’t directly control by whatever means possible. Social media corporations remain the latest target that PiS assails. PiS desires to curb social media corporations’ power following the widespread social media ban of Donald Trump in January to reinforce their media manipulation. 

Poland’s PiS government negatively responded to the widespread social media censorship of US President Donald Trump. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of the PiS party stated, “we cannot agree to censorship,” and that social media companies “cannot operate above the law.” PiS argue private entities such as social media corporations shouldn’t censor because the law does not support it. However, PiS uses the law they changed to support their state censorship legally. The censorship hypocrisy of PiS sustains their overall media manipulation strategy because social media networks extensively mobilize far-right-wing discourse.

Poland’s state-owned media propagates pro-government messages. State media can limit information to one-sided views that inhibit pluralism of expression, and political figures can use media to degrade opponents and present themselves positively. For example, Polish state television sought to discredit President Andrzej Duda’s political challenger, Rafal Trzaskowski, by distorting quotes and curbing pluralist views necessary to understand the truth. PiS uses state-controlled media to manipulate representations of opponents to bolster its populist, divisive regime. PiS’s distorted depictions on social media would face jurisdiction beyond their control with increased censorship. 

Dominance in online media remains essential for achieving influence because social media and digital media platforms such as Facebook in Poland are increasingly widespread.  PiS effectively exploited online media in the 2015 Polish election because they mobilized greater support and control over media narratives than the Civic Platform (PO) party. Social media remains vital for mobilizing support for future elections, and PiS will want to manipulate it in their favor. However, censorship of social media by private companies could threaten the potential for pro-government and right-wing populist discourse to spread through these sources, likely concerning PiS.  

The internet – and social media especially – allow people to publicize far-right wing discourse and misleading information. A recent study from MIT found that false or misleading information spreads faster than the truth. The enhanced spread of manipulated information can effectively vilify opponents and policies as PiS has exploited. PiS created a website called Forumprogramoweko.pl that deceived voters looking for information about the PO party’s policy positions. The website led people to a library of gaffes by PO politicians rather than official campaign statements. PiS used the internet to mislead voters to flawed representations of their opponents, a deceptive strategy to disparage opposition while garnering support for themselves. The creation of a false website remains legal for Poland’s state-controlled media; however, it could face removal if placed on a private social media platform. 

PiS desires to curb social media corporations’ power to reinforce their personal media manipulation. PiS proposed a "freedom of speech” law in January that would prohibit social networking sites from deleting posts or blocking accounts if the content does not violate Polish law. This law constructs a facade that the PiS government is against censoring media and freedom of speech. Stating support for freedom of speech with this law deflects from the suppression and manipulation of speech and press that occurs under the PiS government. Many will negatively criticize PiS for their actions. Many others may view this action as “groundbreaking” and necessary for freedom of speech. The topic of controlling social media content remains contested; however, PiS argues against it to bolster their ultimate media manipulation.

About
Whitney DeVries
:
Whitney DeVries is a Diplomatic Courier correspondent currently pursuing a master’s degree in International Affairs and Global Enterprise at the University of Utah.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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Poland’s Government and Media Manipulation

Warsaw, Poland. Photo by Mwangi Gatheca via Unsplash.

March 1, 2021

Poland’s Law and Justice Party (PiS) seeks to censor media outlets and social media platforms, while not allowing social media platforms any freedom to regulate themselves.

P

oland’s Law and Justice Party (PiS) took control of the government during the 2015 elections, winning the presidency and majorities in both houses of parliament. Since then, PiS have increasingly sought to manipulate the media and attack pluralism to retain influence and power. PiS exert direct influence over media outlets that they control, and they attack media outlets that they can’t directly control by whatever means possible. Social media corporations remain the latest target that PiS assails. PiS desires to curb social media corporations’ power following the widespread social media ban of Donald Trump in January to reinforce their media manipulation. 

Poland’s PiS government negatively responded to the widespread social media censorship of US President Donald Trump. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of the PiS party stated, “we cannot agree to censorship,” and that social media companies “cannot operate above the law.” PiS argue private entities such as social media corporations shouldn’t censor because the law does not support it. However, PiS uses the law they changed to support their state censorship legally. The censorship hypocrisy of PiS sustains their overall media manipulation strategy because social media networks extensively mobilize far-right-wing discourse.

Poland’s state-owned media propagates pro-government messages. State media can limit information to one-sided views that inhibit pluralism of expression, and political figures can use media to degrade opponents and present themselves positively. For example, Polish state television sought to discredit President Andrzej Duda’s political challenger, Rafal Trzaskowski, by distorting quotes and curbing pluralist views necessary to understand the truth. PiS uses state-controlled media to manipulate representations of opponents to bolster its populist, divisive regime. PiS’s distorted depictions on social media would face jurisdiction beyond their control with increased censorship. 

Dominance in online media remains essential for achieving influence because social media and digital media platforms such as Facebook in Poland are increasingly widespread.  PiS effectively exploited online media in the 2015 Polish election because they mobilized greater support and control over media narratives than the Civic Platform (PO) party. Social media remains vital for mobilizing support for future elections, and PiS will want to manipulate it in their favor. However, censorship of social media by private companies could threaten the potential for pro-government and right-wing populist discourse to spread through these sources, likely concerning PiS.  

The internet – and social media especially – allow people to publicize far-right wing discourse and misleading information. A recent study from MIT found that false or misleading information spreads faster than the truth. The enhanced spread of manipulated information can effectively vilify opponents and policies as PiS has exploited. PiS created a website called Forumprogramoweko.pl that deceived voters looking for information about the PO party’s policy positions. The website led people to a library of gaffes by PO politicians rather than official campaign statements. PiS used the internet to mislead voters to flawed representations of their opponents, a deceptive strategy to disparage opposition while garnering support for themselves. The creation of a false website remains legal for Poland’s state-controlled media; however, it could face removal if placed on a private social media platform. 

PiS desires to curb social media corporations’ power to reinforce their personal media manipulation. PiS proposed a "freedom of speech” law in January that would prohibit social networking sites from deleting posts or blocking accounts if the content does not violate Polish law. This law constructs a facade that the PiS government is against censoring media and freedom of speech. Stating support for freedom of speech with this law deflects from the suppression and manipulation of speech and press that occurs under the PiS government. Many will negatively criticize PiS for their actions. Many others may view this action as “groundbreaking” and necessary for freedom of speech. The topic of controlling social media content remains contested; however, PiS argues against it to bolster their ultimate media manipulation.

About
Whitney DeVries
:
Whitney DeVries is a Diplomatic Courier correspondent currently pursuing a master’s degree in International Affairs and Global Enterprise at the University of Utah.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.