|Mr Tusk said he "would not submit to blackmail"|
Courtesy of Flickr/KPRM
Poland signed the international copyright treaty known as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) last Thursday despite nationwide protests, the hacking of government websites and the threat of cyber warfare by internet users who oppose the deal.
Critics of ACTA argue that the bill, which aims to create international standards for protecting intellectual property, will stifle freedom of expression on the internet, pointing to a clause in the treaty which suggests that internet service providers (ISPs) would be obliged to give up data about users who were being accused of copyright infringement.
Starting on Sunday, January 22, the websites of the prime minister, parliament and other government offices were unreachable or sluggish, the hallmarks of a distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS) by hackers. The technique works by overwhelming a website by directing streams of bogus traffic to it.
At first government spokesperson Paweł Graś attempted to deny that the increased traffic was due to attacks. However, after unauthorized images were posted on the websites of the prime minister and the Ministry of Defense, it was clear the government was experiencing a cyber attack.
NGOs in Poland, meanwhile, have complained that the government did not consult them on the issue of signing the treaty, despite earlier promises to do so.
“Last May we met the prime minister. He assured us that we would be consulted regarding ACTA, but unfortunately that never happened,” said Dominika Bychawska-Siniarska, head of the Observatory for Media Freedom in Poland at the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights.
Protests against Poland’s planned signing of the ACTA treaty were held in a number of cities across the country last week, with the biggest being held in Kraków, where over 15,000 people turned up, many holding placards with slogans such as “stop censorship” and “we want freedom of speech.”
Moreover, messages were sent to the government via Twitter from user@AnonymousWiki, who claimed responsibility for the hacking of the government websites and warned that there would be further attacks if Poland signed the ACTA treaty. User@AnonymousWiki also claimed that it had obtained “leaked documentations on many Poland officials,” and that if the treaty were passed it would leak those documents.
A decision has been made
But Prime Minister Tusk said the government “would not submit to blackmail” and that the treaty would be signed. He added, though, that “only when the government is sure that Polish law guarantees freedom on the internet, will we send the bill for ratification to parliament.” The treaty would also need to be signed by the president before becoming law.
“ACTA was accepted by countries who, like it or not, are the backbone of freedom in the whole world,” said the prime minister, pointing to the EU, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Korea and Mexico as examples.
As WBJ went to press, pro-tests were continuing all over Poland, but no major disturbances were reported on official websites.
According to a SMG KRC poll released on Friday, 64 percent of people polled disapproved of the government’s decision to sign ACTA, and 21 percent approved. Meanwhile, 60 percent said they did not think ACTA would help fight piracy online, and 29 percent said they though it would.
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