Wednesday, October 24, 2007

How to Kill the Blogosphere in One Easy Lesson

Romano Prodi's Cabinet has just proved a law designed to kill the Italian blogopshere stone dead. According to Italian blogger Beppe Grillo...
Ricardo Franco Levi, Prodi’s right hand man , undersecretary to the President of the Council, has written the text to put a stopper in the mouth of the Internet. The draft law was approved by the Council of Ministers on 12 October. No Minister dissociated themselves from it. On gagging information, very quietly, these are all in agreement. The Levi-Prodi law lays out that anyone with a blog or a website has to register it with the ROC, a register of the Communications Authority, produce certificates, pay a tax, even if they provide information without any intention to make money. Blogs are being born every second, anyone can start one without a problem and they can write their thoughts, publish photos and videos. In fact, the route proposed by Levi limits access to the Internet. What young person is going to submit to all these hoops to do a blog? the Levi-Prodi law obliges anyone who has a website or a blog to get a publishing company and to have a journalist who is on the register of professionals as the responsible director. 99% would close down. The lucky 1% still surviving on the Internet according to the Levi-Prodi law would have to respond in the case of the lack of control on defamatory content in accordance with articles 57 and 57 bis of the penal code. Basically almost sure to be in prison. If the law gets passed, it’ll be the end of the Internet in Italy. My blog won’t close. If I have to, I’ll transfer lock stock, barrel and server to a democratic State. PS. Anyone wishing to express their opinion to Ricardo Franco Levi can send an email to:

What's the betting that having passed through the Italian Parliament it will then emerge as a Draft Directive in Brussels?


Anonymous said...

Be afraid, be very afraid...

I'll say it before, but it is worth repeating, the film 'The Lives Of Others' is mandatory viewing for any one wanting a lesson in where we may end up if we don't fight this sort of thing tooth and nail.

It will have been completely pointless for the Berlin Wall to have been torn down, for it to be replaced by the European Firewall.

You have been warned...

Anonymous said...

Another non story; this has already failed and been sidelined. Ho hum.

..first they came for the hysterical bloggers, then they came for the tin foil hat wearers...

put a tie on and get back to work?

Anonymous said...

It's all about control - they don't like it up 'em Capt Mainwaring!

Iain Dale said...

Matthew, Perhaps you'd like to back that up with some evidence. If you are right, it must have happened in the last 24 hours as Beppe wrote this post only 2 days ago.

Unsworth said...

Oh come on Iain, it's a certainty that even now the Brussels apparatchiks are drawing up the drafts. Of course this is one area where the Brown 'red lines' have no impact. Come to think of it do any of these 'lines' have the slightest impact?

The clear intention of these politicians is to control, enchain and enslave.

Anonymous said...

This law was clearly never intended to apply to individual bloggers.

Just a case of poorly worded legislation that will be amended before it becomes law.

The real issue is that politicans don't know how to frame media laws to take into account blogging as a medium. It's not a Vast Left/Right-Wing Conspiracy to silence bloggers - just fusty law makers who thing blogs are the same as magazines.

The El Reg's comments page shows similar laws exist in Poland and Greece, also results of lumping bogs in with "dead tree" media.

Fair play to Mr Grillo for ensuring the changes will be made, but it's not quite the blow for freedom Iain suggests.

Anonymous said...

As was confirmed in the comments on your Anonymity post, the blogsphere is un-regulated and un-regulatable. Bluff and bluster from sad old politicians will make no difference.

Old BE said...

Matthew says it has failed. We thought the EU Constitution had failed but hey presto it's back under another guise!

Where do these power hungry obsessives get off? Can't they just leave people alone to get on with their lives in the way they see fit? If that means expressing their opinions on blogs then why not? Let the libel laws* go after those who abuse their freedoms.

*can we have a reform of those while we are at it?

Anonymous said...

Iain, it seems the government is planning to revise the law: Some links here:

Anonymous said...

And just why would it miraculously pop up as an EU Directive?

Do you seriously believe that these things just happen at the whim of an ordinary civil servant?

Someone - a government, company, whatever - would have to convice the Commission to propose it, and I doubt they would get far.

This shows the same insecurity you have over red lines and the rest. If you love democratic sytemes and the rule of law so much - why assume they can be by-passed without evidence?

Try using the system rather than running scared from it.

Mulligan said...

"Try using the system rather than running scared from it."

Ah, just like many in late 1930's Germany then. Yep, who needs free speech in any case? Certainly not politicians!

Anonymous said...

I was surprised when I was in Italy this summer that at the big chain internet cafes you had to produce a passport to let have access. On my last day in Florence we even walked past a place that had been shut down because someone had given a friend their login details and the police had swooped on them.

At the same time, I ended up using an internet cafe just around the corner which didn't care about such things at all.

I don't think this will kill off blogging in Italy, it will just create another black market, something which Italians seem to take for granted. It is a remarkably lawless country.

Anonymous said...

As the latest news from Italy is that one seventh of the economy is controlled by the Mafia it's nice to see that Mr Prodi is getting his priorities right.

Tapestry said...

I don't see how they can stop emails. blog posts can be sent anywhere in the world and uploaded on multiple servers.

Individual bloggers might be prosecuted, but extradition for blogging could be a bit tricky from some locations!

I blog on British politics from the Philippines. I guess I'd be arrested as I landed at Manchester or Heathrow. Fined? Prison? There would be thousands of us.

One thing. By banning, it would make sure we got a lot more readers. Political Radio Caroline. Politics would spread out round the globe.

Yak40 said...

And they criticise Chinese web censorship !

simon said...

If Italian bloggers are made to pay tax, they will be the only Italians who do, so good luck with it

Anonymous said...

Where did I say that I was against free speech Travis?!

I just said that you all seem to assume that these things ^pass into Euro-law without so much as a by-your-leave...

Get out there and use the democratic levers at your disposal if you want to change things.

It's like Chuck U:
"The clear intention of these politicians is to control, enchain and enslave."

Oh really? Why on eartbn would they care that much about subjugating you to want to do that?
Stop being so self-pitying you lot, and so supine!

Anonymous said...

Not a bad idea really...

I wonder how the blogosphere will justify its existence - seeing as its pulling in every direction but the same one and appears to be at each others throats half the time, threatening libel cases against fellow bloggers, selecting which comments to publish or not and flouncing off at the slightest criticism...

sorry, did I say that out loud?

Anonymous said...


This is how it is done. A law is proposed. If there is no opposition, then it goes forward. Otherwise "Er, sorry, it doesn't mean that" etc.

There is a clear belief in some quarters that anonymity must be completely removed from the Internet. All actions must be traceable to source and and available in perpetuity.

Too many people in authority have seen Demolition Man and *liked* the concept of ProtectServe....

Anonymous said...

What's the betting that having passed through the Italian Parliament it will then emerge as a Draft Directive in Brussels?

That depends whether the punters have as loose a grasp on the policy formation process in Brussels as you appear to. It's pretty unheard of for the Commission to take up national legislation and propose it as a basis for European policy.

I know Eurohysteria is fashionable at the moment, but this kind of knee-jerkery ain't helpful.

Anonymous said...

I would expect any half decent host would immediately move abroad.

However we are seeing constant pressure from those in power against the net & a small but onimous number of defeats (cave ins in China & the Canadian extradited so the Germans could imprison him for Holocaust denial online).

Anonymous said...

comment 7 here, which is hardly proof, but anecdotally accurate, ( on t'net, natch it's true).
It's the managerialistas trying it on again, and given them a soupcon of Daily Mail credence seems a mistake.
I think it has as much chance of ending up law as the straight banana botheration.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Tapestry is correct. They couldn't stop us. There would be too many samizdat sites. Nobody is going to take away my right to freedom of speech, and there would be thousands like us who would just not shut up and go away.

Moreover, there are plenty of people with money, power and influence who would back us.

I see it as a healthy move that somebody like Stefan Shakespeare is prepared to provide (with 18DS) an alternative that works and that has a clearly stated agenda. (If 18DS does its job, sooner or later it will come up against the powers that be.)

As for Italy, it's still run by the Mafia and they get the leaders they deserve, like that thieving bastard Berlusconi.A recent report calculated the Mafia's annual income at £63 Billion which makes it Italy's biggest business empire. These days it sells a lot of fake Parma Ham, colza oil flavoured and badged as olive oil etc, as well as its more traditional lines. In country that is conditioned to paying protection money rather than to speak out, the future of free speech in Italy looks grim.

Anonymous said...

This is absolutely shocking news! Really, Iain, you are right - the EU are probably coming up with this sort of directive right now.

It's not paranoid to think this sort of thing, either, to be fair to other posters. It is understood that politicians have a pretty good chance of getting you in the written/mainstream press, but the Internet just won't stay the same long enough for them to get hold of it...until now. What a genius idea, if you think about it, taxing the blogosphere. It makes perfect sense - everyone from young kids to older politico types suddenly having to register and pay for their thoughts. It may be disturbing - it ruddy IS - but it's a stroke of "why didn't I think of it" genius.

I am deeply worried about this idea coming into fruition elsewhere. Why would any politican not do it? It's an instant win-win for them; more money, less dissent.

I wish the general population had a taste for protest like "the old days"; this really could be the start of the end.

Deeply, deeply worrying. :(

Jeremy Jacobs said...

James Graham has hit the nail on the head.

Besdies, Italians do so love bureaucracy.

Tuscan Tony said...

James Graham - lawless but safe. Libertarian heaven.

Thomas Gordon said...


All we can hope for is that Prodi Fiefdom collapses before this odious law passes.

But I'm not holding my breath-the man was a KGB stockpuppet in the first place.

Helen said...

Well, as a matter of fact, politicians would like to regulate the internet and the blogosphere and I, for one, am sick of hearing from anonymous contributors how this could never possibly happen. Yeah right. Politicians never ever want to control what people say or write. Of course, not.

The only thing is, how are they going to enforce it. Cannot be done. Tough.

Tim Hedges said...

I blog from Italy about Euro and Italian politics ( I was quite worried about this because I had recently received a complaint from the Justice Minister Clemente Mastella for saying he had gone to a football match in the presidential plane (he had). But I am told on good authority it was just an old fasioned cock-up.

We are quite right to be vigilant though

Anonymous said...

It will happen, the EU is corrupt, it HAS to protect itself.

Bit off topic I know but, Are they Lying to us.
Have the EUrocrats forgotten to tell us ALL of their Dastardly Plans.
What better way for an EU Soviet Police State to control its
Population than getting rid of Christianity and replacing it with Sharia Law.

Could the reason the Socialists want to have an Elected Lords be to get rid of the
Bishops who have an automatic seat.
what was it Jack Straw said, Oh Yes.................'the British are not worth saving as a race'.
It's completely illegal, Our rights PREDATE Parliament.
The curse of Political Correctness
Here is Europol, Military Transnational Police with Diplomatic Immunity NOW.
Internet Shut down. , presumably health, Enforced Bankruptcy.Denial of Public services ? Health care ?

Jon Worth said...

Rather moronic euroscepticism Iain. There's no way the EU institutions would go down this line for blogs. At least 5 Commissioners write blogs - a greater number than UK cabinet ministers.

Italy has one of the lowest broadband rates in Europe, most of its politicians are in their 70s, and it's efforts to promote innovation in its economy are a joke.

I don't think there's much to fear from the EU on this one. Indeed the Italian law might actually be illegal under EU law anyway.