Can court make blocking Facebook in Latvia possible?

As elections are approaching Latvia in autumn 2018, very important questions are been raised by agitation monitoring and elimination in social networks, especially Facebook. For the purpose to ensure transparent elections, Jēkabs Straume, the head of Latvia’s Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) in the Parliamentary commission session offered, if needed to ask for court judgment to block Facebook for a period of time in Latvia.

Since his statement a lot of discussions are happening, involving question – can Latvia alone do anything about blocking Facebook for the election time, or there need to be taken measures in EU level.

First, the question is – would KNAB have the legal basis for requesting a blocking of Facebook. The law stipulates that all media, including Internet sites, have to submit political advertising prices before the pre-election campaign. But the fines for not giving the information are small (till 1400 eur), which is not a big sum of money for Facebook.

Second, if the permission to block Facebook can be received then technically it is possible to block the site, even though Latvia as a democratic country does not have a single firewall like it is, for example, China. Blocking must be done through Internet Service Providers (ISPs), which are several in Latvia. Also, people who are technically aware of this blockage can bypass them.

But the optimism in this question lies – that the real leverage is to be found at the level of the European Union, which has already proved its readiness to stand against this “geopolitical giant”.

As elections are approaching and organizations and companies providing ads for the political parties need to hand in their payment and prices conditions in May, we will see how open is Facebook to cooperate to make the elections in Latvia more transparent.

(irir.lv, 29/03/2018) https://irir.lv/2018/03/29/vai-knab-varetu-panakt-facebook-blokesanu-latvija

Author of the article: Pauls Raudseps

The information is prepared by the team of the COMPACT project.

COMPACT is a Coordination and Support Action funded European Commission under framework Horizon 2020.

The objective of the COMPACT project is to increase awareness (including scientific, political, cultural, legal, economic and technical areas) of the latest technological discoveries among key stakeholders in the context of social media and convergence. The project will offer analyses and road maps of related initiatives. In addition, extensive research on policies and regulatory frameworks in media and content will be developed.

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