New Bill to Clamp Down on Italian Bloggers

The term, “paragraph 29” might not mean much for a number of bloggers unless you are an Italian blogger. In that case, the term “paragraph 29” is a part of a highly controversial law that, according to critics, could put Italian blogging in jeopardy.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

Italian press have been facing some major challenges lately. Last month, the Italian media went on a 24 hour strike to protest what they call is a “gagging law” which would prohibit publishing transcripts of phone conversations and listening devices. The bill combines this along with anti-wiretapping laws which can be considered a positive thing to protect privacy. Some consider the law a double-edged sword.

More recently, protests emerged online against similar laws that critics say would severely harm freedom of the press. The Wiretapping bill features a provision in section 1, paragraph 29 which says that bloggers and other written journalists could face a fine of up to 25,000 Euros if they do not comply with complaints. EDRI translated the controversial section to English:

The present appeal refers to Article 1, paragraph 29 of the bill which extends the rectification obligation of the written press to all online publishers, including bloggers. According to the respective paragraph, “those responsible for information websites” will be obliged to post corrections within 48 hours from any complaint regarding website content (whether blog, opinion, comment or simple information), in the same form in which the contested content was originally put online. In case of non-compliance, the authors face fines of up to 25 000 euro.

If you have any experience in the field of journalism that involves a site that receives feedback, you will immediately understand how this could have a very damaging effect on journalism online. When I receive complaints of anything published, most of the time, it’s of the nature that I’m somehow anti-copyright and that I should support the artists instead of the evil file-sharers even though I’m an artist myself. If such a law were enacted in the US, you can easily see what kind of damaging effect it could have on a journalist such as myself because all the record labels would have to do is complain that my criticism isn’t correct and I would have to essentially censor myself completely or face stiff fines for non-compliance.

EDRI points out that an amendment introduced by Roberto Cassinelli and Roberto Zaccaria was suppose to lengthen to time before compliance and lower the fine to 2,500 euros, but due to procedural issues, the amendment never came to be.

A movement to stop this has already taken root called “No Legge Bavaglio alla rete” (No Gag Law to the Net). From EDRI:

“The Bill cannot be allowed to pass as it currently stands. We demand full and open Parliamentary debate on Article 1, paragraph 29 of the Bill, including consideration of the above amendments. Access to the Internet is set to become a fundamental human right in hundreds of countries around the world. We cannot force citizens to renounce that right here in our country,” says the appeal “No Legge Bavaglio alla Rete”.

Here’s hoping that this bill doesn’t become law and if it does become law, that this concept of a law won’t spread around the world.

More info: No Legge Bavaglio alla Rete protest post in English and Italian

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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