Thursday, October 25, 2007

Italian Blog Law

This piece in the Telegraph describes what would seem to be a crazy Italian attempt to regulate the blogosphere.
By G8 standards, Italy is a strange country. Put simply, it is a nation of octogenarian lawmakers elected by 70-year-old pensioners. Everyone else is inconsequential.
Romano Prodi, the Prime Minister, is a spry 68, knocking off 71-year-old Silvio Berlusconi in last year’s election. President Giorgio Napolitano, 82, has six more years left on his term; his predecessor was 86 when he called it quits. In the unlikely event that Italy declares war, the decision will come from a head of state who was a month shy of 20 when the Germans surrendered at the end of the Second World War.
This creaky perspective is a necessary introduction to any discussion about Italian politics with outsiders, I find. If the Italian Government seems unable to adapt to the modern world, the explanation is quite simple. Your country would operate like this too if your grandparents were in charge.
Recently, Italian lawmakers once again took aim at modern life, introducing an incredibly broad law that would effectively require all bloggers, and even users of social networks, to register with the state. Even a harmless blog about a favourite football squad or a teenager grousing about life’s unfairness would be subject to government oversight, and even taxation – even if it’s not a commercial website.
Outside Italy, the legislation has generated sniggers from hardly sympathetic industry observers. Boingboing cleverly reports Italy is proposing a “Ministry of Blogging.” plays it straighter, calling the measure an “anti-blogger” law.
I understand the lack of alarm in their tone. We’ve been down this road countless times. Panicky government officials, whether they are in Harare, Beijing or Rome (yes, this is the second time it’s been proposed here), pronounce a brand new muzzle for the internet, and clever netizens simply find a way around it. Even that agitated teen probably has a foolproof way of masking his IP address. And besides, it could easily be argued that a Blogger or Typepad blog is hosted on a server well outside the bel paese, making a stupid law virtually unenforceable. And finally this is Italy, a place where plumbers and captains of industry alike are serial tax evaders. Don’t sweat it, amico. Enjoy the sunshine, vino rosso and tagliatelle.
Maybe it is because of all these obvious points that the draft law is already going through some revisions. If it is ratified – and at the moment it looks frighteningly likely – the Ministry of Communications would decide who must register with the state.

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