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Poland: Government Will Sign ACTA Despite Massive Protest

Categories: Activism, Advocacy, Regulation, Poland

“The Acta agreement in no way changes Polish laws or the rights of internet users and internet usage.” – despite a massive Internet protest [1] and controversies around the secret manner of negotiations, Minister of Administration and Digitisation Michal Boni admitted [2] after the meeting with PM Donald Tusk that the government would sign the anti-piracy agreement ACTA [3] on January 26, as planned.

In an interview with a radio station, Boni said [4] [pl] that it was impossible not to sign the agreement, because it was too late: Poland joined the negotiation process in 2008 and all the other European countries have already signed it. He added that Poland “should attach a clause to the treaty that would show how we interpret these articles”. Boni promised [5] [pl] broad public consultations during the European ratification process. Several Polish NGOs expressed [6] [pl] their disappointment with the government's stance on ACTA and appealed to change the decision.

Since January 21, online hackers calling themselves Anonymous [7] have been attacking and shuting down government websites almost constantly, in a chaotic protest against the plans to sign the international treaty on Thursday.

[8]

TANGO DOWN: User @Anonymouswiki owns up to the web attacks on the websites of the prime minister, the parliament and other government entities. Screenshot: Twitter @Anonymouswiki

Although the hackers still enjoy a strong support among netizens, and the attacks were one of the reasons the mainstream media picked up the topic of ACTA, the group also faces criticism from the major Polish tech-bloggers. Maciej Gajewski from Spidersweb calls them [9] [pl] “crying kids worried for their mp3″ and regrets that they became the face of the protest giving the government officials an argument against the movement:

Critics, mistrust and suspicion is one thing, but panic, mumbling and spreading disinformation is another thing. Looking at some finds on the biggest Polish social news platforms, looking at the comments of some readers, I get the impression that the lion's share of the protesters have no idea what ACTA is about. They've made up fantastic stories and are passing them on. The mass is getting crazy “Impale PM”, “Let's burn the Minister on the stake!”, “They will all lock us down in prisons!”. And then also Anonymous, who just make the whole protest look ridiculous in the eyes of mature older voters.

Over 900 Polish websites went dark on January 24

As opposed to the web attacks on government websites, Antyweb called [10] [pl] on his blog on January 23 for a protest “in a cultured way, namely, a blackout” and provided a script and an instruction on how to do it. In response, more than 900 websites decided to “go dark” and display an anti-ACTA message. Allegro [11], the Polish equivalent of Ebay, placed an “anti-ACTA” banner next to the company's logo. The list of the websites taking part in the protest is available here [12].

[13]

"This is what the Internet might look like very soon. NO to ACTA" – over 900 Polish websites decided to go dark on January 24 in protest against the treaty. Screenshot: http://spiderweb.pl

The opposition party, the Democratic Left Alliance [14], also said the government should not sign the agreement and blackouted its website [15] [pl] in solidarity.

While the global media, with a few exceptions [16], keep silent about the Polish protest, national information services race to publish dozens of opinions, analyses and the latest reports on the ACTA case. In the meantime, the protest movement seems to be getting bigger and bigger: the anti-ACTA protest event on Facebook Nie dla ACTA [17] has reached over 400,000 fans. A real-life protest in Warsaw gathered [18] [pl] over 1,000 people on Tuesday, and another one is being planned for Wednesday, January 25.

[19]

"Screw corporations, long live the people": many Polish protesters went on the streets on January 24. Photo by Alexey Sidorenko, used with permission.

Vagla, a popular Polish digital rights blogger, shared this hope [20] [pl] on Twitter on January 24:

I guess that slowly people start to understand that this is not a discussion about “piracy” and “thieves” but about the direction in which our civilisation is heading.

***

Update:

Later on January 24, PM Tusk confirmed officially [21] [pl] at a press conference that Poland will sign ACTA on January 26. At the same time, he stressed that the government will not give in to blackmail, meaning the earlier web attacks. Poland strives for internet freedom, said Tusk.