Polish Human Rights Commissioner Wants Less Website Blocking

August 23, 2022
Poland’s Human Rights Commissioner has sent an official letter to the Prime Minister calling for the country’s extensive, but dubiously effective, blacklisting efforts to be scaled back.


Poland’s Human Rights Commissioner (HRC) has sent an official letter to the Prime Minister calling for the country’s extensive, but dubiously effective, blacklisting efforts to be scaled back.

“Over the past months, citizens have numerously notified the Commissioner for Human Rights about issues related to blocking [access to] websites,” said Marcin Wiącek, the Human Rights Commissioner, in a statement.

“The scale of the complaints submitted to the Commissioner for Human Rights with regards to blocking [access to] websites requires a general approach. For this reason, Marcin Wiącek has asked Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to consider taking appropriate legislative actions,” according to the statement.

Under the country’s amended gambling law that introduced tighter regulations to combat offshore gambling, Poland has been blocking local users from accessing non-licensed gambling websites since 2017.

Authorities in Poland are among the most proactive globally in shutting off access to offshore websites. As of August 22, the blacklist comprises more than 25,816 domains.

Despite these efforts, the offshore gambling industry continues to attract a sizable share of the Polish market. An opinion poll carried out in 2021 indicated that only 43 percent of Polish bettors claimed they did not use the services of unregistered bookmakers.

Wiącek said it is too easy for websites to be added to the blacklist, harming freedoms and the right to earn a living.

“Within the Polish legal framework, the adopted mechanism of blocking websites creates risks both for the liberty of expression and access to information,” the commissioner’s office said.

“For this reason, without questioning the need to maintain and preserve tools that will ensure respect of the law, protection of persons whose rights may be violated, as well as security, the Commissioner for Human Rights emphasises that actions aimed at blocking websites should be strictly defined and subject to effective control against possible abuse.”

The commissioner’s office recognises that Poland’s gambling law stipulates that the operator of a blocked gambling website has the right to file an objection to the finance ministry within two months after the domain was added to the blacklist. The ministry has then two weeks to accept or reject the objection.

But, he said, that does not mitigate the risks posed by how easy it is for the authorities to shut down an operation.

“In some situations, of which some have been reported to the HRC, running a website can be the only source of income [of a person]. Blocking a website without providing any information about the reasons for doing so, as well as about the period during which it will be blocked, may violate civil rights and freedoms,” according to the statement.

In late June 2022, the Ministry of Finance issued a new regulation which designated the Customs and Tax Office in Opole as the new entity charged with maintaining the blacklist.

Under Article 15f of the amended gambling law, local internet service providers (ISPs) are required to block their customers from accessing the websites whose domains are added to the register.

The finance ministry is the designated authority that is tasked with notifying ISPs about the domains to which access should be blocked for Poland-based users. Once it does that, local ISPs are given 48 hours to block their customers from accessing blacklisted websites, and, should they fail to do so, they can be punished with fines of up to PLN500,000 (€105,000).

Wiącek was appointed as Human Rights Commissioner by the Polish parliament in 2021 for a five-year term.

Our premium content is available to users of our services.

To view articles, please Log-in to your account, or sign up today for full access:

Opt in to hear about webinars, events, industry and product news

To find out more about Vixio, contact us today
No items found.