In Italy it’s Arrivederci, Facebook!


Italy is again seriously trying to censor the Internet with a new bill that would force Internet Service Providers to shut down entire websites if the Ministry of the Interior decides the site condones crime.

Gianpiero D’Alia, a centre right senator from Sicily,image has called Facebook “an indecent site” because it allows users to create fan groups for mafia leaders and rapists. According to D’Alia, Facebook and other websites with user-generated content are not doing everything in their power to remove this kind of content from their pages.

If the law is approved, the publication of content that incites others to commit crimes on the Internet will be considered a felony. Both ISPs and the website owners will be held responsible.

The law says prosecutors have first to warn website owners of offensive/illegal content on their websites. Prosecutors who are not satisfied by the resulting response can then force Italian ISPs to block access to those websites so that no one in Italy would be able to read that content. If the ISPs refuse to comply, they’ll face a fine of 250.000 Euro.

This law, which has already passed the Senate, marks the first time the Italian government has addressed entire websites rather than single webpages. This means that if a sole bit of content offends, all legal and positive contents will be lost.

Alongside Facebook fan pages of mafia bosses who count a few hundreds fans, there are also fan pages honoring Italian heroes who gave their lives to serve the country. The page celebrating judges Falcone and Borsellino boasts hundreds of thousands of fans.

Italian lawmakers, both from centre-left and centre-right parties, are not new in trying to pass bills that regulate or censor the Internet. They have threatened freedom of speech before. Less than two years ago an MP close to the former prime minister, Romano Prodi, proposed a bill that, if approved, would have required all bloggers to register and follow the same laws as newspapers or commercial magazines.
This time the threat seems to be much worse. D’Alia’s bill has been approved by the Senate and, if approved by the Chamber of Deputies, will become law.

As with the YouTube judicial case, this law could create an extremely dangerous precedent in the European Union.

To protest against this proposed law, some people gathered in Rome on 12 February and chained themselves on the popular Milvio bridge.

The whole situation is particularly unpleasant because the secretary of the party proposing this law has been convicted for corruption and indicted for several felonies - like defrauding the European Union.

It’s indeed difficult for the Italian people to take lessons of morality and justice from such people.

Flickr image from user jstevesw