Polish politician Patryk Jaki, an MEP for Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, has announced that he is suing Facebook for failing to tackle fake posts containing defamation against him.
Jaki, who until becoming an MEP this year was deputy justice minister, complained on Twitter that “for years there has been an organised campaign to defame me online. ‘My’ posts have regularly been presented with mistakes added to them (to show [me] as stupid)”.
Jaki illustrated his post with a comparison of the original of a private photograph and a doctored image originating from satirical website ASZdziennik showing him with a dog and captioned “Me and my rablador” (as opposed to labrador).
Pozwałem Facebooka.Przez lata w sieci trwała zorganizowana akcja zniesławiania mnie. Regularnie podawano zmontowane „moje”wpisy z błędami(aby pokazać jaki głupi).Do dziś pod każdym moim wpisem wypomina się mi „rabladora”-ktoś dokleił mi do prywatnego zdjęcia psa i fałszywy podpis pic.twitter.com/f0ca4F2mdN
— Patryk Jaki – MEP (@PatrykJaki) November 29, 2019
Jaki continued: “On Facebook money has been pumped into anonymous accounts for advertising and it spread around the web. Facebook were informed, and did nothing. When I was a minister I couldn’t afford so many costly trials. But now I won’t let anyone off.”
Memes mocking the politician’s supposed gaffes became popular after a genuine slip of the tongue – or fingers – made in a 2017 Facebook post on the subject of reparations owed to Poland by Germany. Intending to write of “the German hecatomb” (meaning a slaughter of many victims), Jaki inadvertently conflated the word with “catacomb”, coining hatakumba (“hatacomb”).
The MEP told Polsat News that “Facebook has become a place where it is possible to libel anyone without any consequences. If an anonymous account is libelling, there is not even anyone to sue, and Facebook doesn’t feel obliged to remove the incorrect content or give the author’s name so that they can be sued.”
This is not Jaki’s only recent threat to sue those he believes are defaming him. Last month, he was mocked after sending a letter full of mistakes in English to his fellow MEPs, appealing to them to “listen to the arguments from all sides” regarding the “alleged attack on judiciary in Poland”.
In response, Jaki threatened legal action against liberal newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza and its journalists, who had pointed out the errors in the letter. Jaki claimed there were “no mistakes”, saying the letter had been written by a “very experienced translator”. He accused his opponents of using communist methods to discredit him. (The letter did, in fact, contain many errors.)
The latest issue is also not Jaki’s first run-in with Facebook. When Polish nationalists complained that the social network was removing some of their posts, Jaki, who was then deputy justice minister, said it was “outrageous” that Facebook allowed insults against the Catholic church or the promotion of communist ideas, yet banned “patriotic Polish slogans”.
Facebook responded that, in line with its policies, it was removing posts that contained “symbols of organisations known for promoting racism and hate”, such as the “Falanga” used by Poland’s far-right National Radical Camp (ONR).
Facebook bans far-right groups National Radical Camp (ONR) & National Rebirth of Poland (NOP) for 'consistently violating our rules' by 'openly promoting racist, antisemitic & homophobic views'. Posts promoting their events, material or symbols prohibited https://t.co/q7z7ItFkXB
— Notes from Poland ?? (@notesfrompoland) April 27, 2018
Patryk Jaki became an MP representing PiS at the age of just 26 and a deputy minister at 30. Last year he was PiS’s candidate for Warsaw mayor, but lost in the first round of voting to opposition candidate Rafał Trzaskowski. Since being elected to the European Parliament earlier this year, Jaki has maintained a high profile and in particular a strong social-media presence.
Jaki last week announced in Facebook and Twitter posts that he had completed his doctorate in security studies. He also complained that the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland’s oldest and most prestigious university, had refused to allow him to organise a debate on “LGBT ideology and gender” in the EU.
University spokesman Adrian Ochalik responded by saying that the event – which featured an exclusively conservative panel of priests, journalists from right-wing media, and a professor who recently called the LGBT movement “travelling rapists” – was clearly “political”. “A university is a place for academic debate; there’s no room for politics,” Ochalik told Gazeta Wyborcza.
Uniwersytet Jagielloński odmówił mi organizacji debaty i konferencji o gender. Nie podobał się temat. Zawsze mi się wydawało, że uniwersytety są miejscem wymiany różnych poglądów.
Dyskusja w Krakowie się jednak odbędzie – zapraszamy! pic.twitter.com/ajKAlBQXI1
— Patryk Jaki – MEP (@PatrykJaki) November 29, 2019
Main image credit: Katarzyna Czerwińska/Kancelaria Senatu/Senat RP/Flickr (under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Ben Koschalka is a translator and the assistant editor at Notes from Poland. Originally from Britain, he has lived in Kraków since 2005.