Why the Polish government gets it wrong

Reading about the plans by the Polish government online (f.i. here and here) to block adult content for minors in Poland, I feel the need to react. Naturally, this is a reaction to hearsay so I gladly revise my critique the moment I get my hands on the original plans.

Let’s start with the timeframe presented to create and implement the plans: three months. This means there is no time for serious testing and there is no time to involve the target group in the plans. It looks a top-down decision to reshape reality just in time before the Presidential elections this year. It looks like a plan for political gain, not like a plan to conscientiously empower children.

Now let’s move on to the content of the plan. The Polish government wishes to create a list of adult content sources that should be filtered out. This is not how democracy works. In a democracy the publisher of content is responsible for acting according to the law. If the publisher breaks the law, there is the judicial system to hold them accountable. Legal review is the way, not preemptive censorship.

Then, the Polish government wishes to block adult content to all individuals in general. Adults who wish to access adult content need to acquire an individual governmental pass to do so. This means that legal content becomes opt-in. This goes beyond what is specified by law and is an unnecessary curbing of adult autonomy.

In addition, the need for getting individual governmental passes opens up the option of creating governmental lists of people who are interested in adult content. It is a small step for an ideological government that frames it citizens as “of a better sort” or of a “worst sort” to use the list as an excuse for curbing civil rights of people on the list, for instance forbidding them to be employed as teachers.

Since the Polish government wants to cooperate with browsers to enforce the blockade of adult content, and the government has legal access to all activity logged by these browsers, the government gets detailed arguments against Poles of the “worst sort”. We only need to look at the Chinese social credit surveillance system to imagine the consequences.

Finally, the need to identify one personally in order to view adult content is a violation of the privacy-by-design principle that no more information should be requested by a verifier than strictly needed. What is required is an end-user age bracket: over or under a certain age. No more.

It is unbelievable that opposition parties in Poland seem to go along with this dangerous governmental policy. Possibly they are scared to become open to criticism of being unwilling to protect children just before the upcoming Presidential elections. This is a moral and a strategic mistake, if only because there is a powerful alternative.