In the wake of recent chaos in Australia surrounding a government proposal to filter the internet, Poland is now considering the same. A bill has been drafted that would give the Polish government precise control over the internet, allowing it to deciding just how it may be used by Polish citizens. The government has been looking for ways to curb online gambling for several years, and they seem to have settled on this as the best possible solution.
Under the proposed law, access to several different categories of sites would be blocked, including websites offering certain types of pornographic materials, as well as all online gambling sites in Poland. A register of banned websites would be put together by a variety of agencies, but the management of the filters would fall to the Office of Electronic Communications. Once a new site is added to the filter list, internet service providers would be legally obliged to block the site within six hours.
Polish internet users are enraged, and are denouncing the proposal as blatant censorship. Groups are putting together petitions aimed at President Lech Kaczyński, urging him not to pass the bill. Even Facebook users are joining together in protest.
At the moment, online gambling in Poland is largely unregulated. There is a loose ban on foreign internet casinos, but it is not very strongly enforced – nor can it be, since foreign gambling websites sites are out of reach in terms of jurisdictional boundaries. Local casinos are pushing for the right to offer internet gambling in Poland, but have not made much headway in recent years. It seems Poland understands the potential that online gambling offers, and is trying to push away external competitors in an attempt to keep things local.
No response has come from the European Commission yet, but it is not hard to imagine that they will see this proposal as a breach of international trade laws. At this point, however, it is still too early to predict the outcome of this situation.