No need for Polish Facebook users to translate complaints, court rules

2022-01-11 19:19 update: 2022-01-12, 20:09
Fot. EPA/Julien de Rosa
Fot. EPA/Julien de Rosa
In court disputes with Facebook, Polish users of the US social media platform do not have to translate their complaints into English, a Polish court has ruled.

A claim against Facebook was filed in court in 2019 by a Polish user, Krzysztof Czabanski, president of the National Media Council, a government agency. Czabanski complained that Facebook had censored content he had shared on the platform.

But the processing of his complaint was suspended in September 2021 by the Regional Court in Warsaw owing to Czabanski's refusal to pay a PLN 2,000 (EUR 440) advance towards translating his claim into English. The court argued that Facebook had the right to refuse to accept the claim written in Polish.

Czabanski's lawyer appealed to the Court of Appeals, which agreed with the claimant in early December. 

The Court of Appeals quoted a 2019 ruling by a court in Dusseldorf, Germany, which had said that in legal disputes with German users, Facebook cannot demand that documents in German are translated into English.

"There are no sufficient reasons to conclude that, despite being a foreign entity, Facebook Ireland Ltd, headquartered in Dublin, does not know Polish since it prepares user regulations and privacy policies in this language as well as signs numerous agreements in Polish with Polish users," the Court of Appeals in Warsaw said.

"Undoubtedly, for this purpose, the defendant uses qualified personnel with Polish language skills, therefore it understands the language," the court added.

Czabanski expressed satisfaction with the ruling in a conversation with PAP.

"It is a breakthrough verdict," he said. "Until now, Facebook behaved in Poland as if it were a king of a country it has colonised."

"It has millions of users, but imposes its regulations on them and if someone doesn't like it and goes to court, then Facebook uses the argument that it can't understand Polish," Czabanski said.

"Facbook does business in Poland, earns big money, but when it comes to accepting responsibility, it suddenly doesn't speak Polish," Czabanski added. "Now the Court of Appeals ruled for the first time that a claim written in Polish is a sufficient one," he continued.

Admitting that the Polish legal system is not based on case law, Czabanski expressed hope that "this ruling will pave the way for many other cases."

According to Czabanski, Facebook abuses its censorship authority, which endangers freedom of speech. (PAP)