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Silesian minority group disabled by Facebook, called unsafe

Things have not been going best for the Silesian minority in Poland lately. Their bill to recognize them as an ethnic minority was rejected by the Polish parliament in October with no discussion. On the 15th of February the TVP (Polish national broadcaster) showed a 30-minute program about how the largest Silesian organisation, the Silesian Autonomy Movement, is trying to tear Poland apart. On the 17th of February one of the oldest Silesian groups on Facebook, “Jestem narodowości śląskiej” (My nationality is Silesian), was disabled.

Facebook message
Facebook message

The administrators were given a stock Facebook notice that the group wasn’t following the Facebook Terms and Community Standards and they were requested to change the group’s name and description, and delete existing posts.

“All the content was moderated to be consistent with the Silesian topics,” says Piotr, one of the group’s admins. “The members participating in the discussion (many public figures were among them) can certainly confirm that our characteristics were freedom of speech and civility of discussion.”

The group’s description says it gathers people who identify as Silesians, there’s a quote about being Silesian, and a few first sentences from some text about the history of Silesia.

The group’s name says “My nationality is Silesian” and many Silesians point that it is the fact of naming the Silesian identity a nationality that made Facebook disable the group.

“Silesian nationality” has been lively debated in Poland for the past twenty years. Silesians first established an organisation with the word “nationality” in its name in 1996. The state refused to register it then. In 2011 the National Census revealed that 847,000 people declare their nationality as Silesian while 510,000 use Silesian language at home. After that The Association of People of Silesian Nationality was created and after successfully registering it at first, the Prosecutor’s office in Opole questioned the registration arguing the National and Ethnic Minorities, and Regional Language Act does not include the Silesian nationality. The organisation was removed from the state register in 2013. Just after its registration the currently-governing Law and Justice party wrote that “being Silesian is a way of rejecting polishness and probably just adopting the German option in disguise.”

Last year several Silesian organisations gathered 140,000 signatures to propose the bill to change the National and Ethnic Minorities Act and include the Silesian one in it. Although they had more than enough signatures (100,000 are requested by law), their proposal was rejected by the Parliament’s Minorities Commission in more or less 15 minutes.

Silesian nationality is a fragile topic to Silesians since they are perpetually called traitors, the national broadcaster libels their organisations and the state refuses to talk to them. It is probable that the group was disabled by mistake since the fanpages of the Silesian Autonomy Movement, the Association of People of Silesian Nationality and other organisations remain active, but it caused an outrage. And people ask “How is it possible a company from a country where minorities are cherished, deems a minority in another country offensive?”

UPDATE 20/02/2017, 20:45: Facebook has brought the group back. The administrators were apologised to and told the group was disabled by mistake.

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