Blogging in Italy

“Every country has the government it deserves”
(Joseph Marie de Maistre)

Update (11/18/2008): The bill has been withdrawn, ostensibly following widespread complaints among bloggers and the general public. In fairness, however, while I remain wary of any governmental attempt at “regulating” blogs, on examining the bill more closely and on reading some of the most authoritative legal opinions, it seems to me that the bill has been seriously misrepresented and its likely consequences vastly overstated, in both the Italian and international press. As it turns out, it would not have affected the overwhelming majority of blogs.
I felt that I owed at least a clarification.

As an amusing follow-up to my latest post on the relationship between blogs and “official” scientific journals, I have found out that in my country of birth some legislators actually think that regulating blogs is not only possible, but actually opportune (the story, in Italian, here). Indeed, parliament is about to discuss a bill that would require all bloggers to register with the Ministry of Communication (no, not with the Ministry of Blogging, silly…), and be thereafter subjected to the same regulations and restrictions as newspapers, television and other ‘regular’ news media. Failure to do so would result in prosecution of the blogger (yes, all blogs would be affected; even cooking, personal or porn blogs will be required to report news — any news I suppose — accurately and unbiasedly).

It is worth noting that this bill was first introduced in 2007, when the so-called ‘center-left’ coalition headed by Romano Prodi was still in power. It did not go anywhere back then, but apparently this is one of those issues on which the current right-wing majority may concur with the ‘center-left’.
The promoter of this bill is a representative elected in the ranks of the so-called Democratic Party (that’s right, only twenty years ago they called themselves ‘communists’…).

Now, aside from the underlying motivations for this initiative, which I frankly would rather not know, the question immediately arises : how is any government even going to attempt to regulate something like a blog, which (among other things) can be hosted on a foreign server ? Only someone who is utterly clueless on how the internet works, or even what it is, could come up with such an idea.
As usual, for a hilarious and quite accurate commentary on the bill, and more generally on the sorry state of Italian politics, nobody can top British commentators — just pick any one of them.

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4 Responses to “Blogging in Italy”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Ministry of Truth – some people read 1984 as an instruction manual

    See Vint Cerf and Alex Lockwood for other examples of the same kind of thinking.

    Related to all this, there were concerns several years ago that blogs (and forums) “in America” (good luck with that) would fall under federal regulations as a result of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (“McCain-Feingold”), and, contrary to what some may assume, the FEC is still grappling with these issues. Yes, there are bureaucrats trying to infer the monetary value of hyperlinks on blogs and forums directing readers to the websites of political candidates. Perhaps they will attempt to monetize posts on internet forums or Facebook? That an idea is completely stupid is not an obstacle to initiating its implementation – they will just always be a Kulak away from victory…

    I am comforted by the notion that government attempts at suppressing free speech online would be ham-fisted. However, as evidenced recently in Belarus, China, Cuba, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Syria, and Zimbabwe, that such repression cannot occur is far from assured.


    • Massimo (formerly known as Okham) Says:

      Re: Ministry of Truth – some people read 1984 as an instruction manual

      Well, in this case the one and only comforting thing is that nothing, nothing that that country does is ever serious… in fact, one of its most important contributions to the world is to show how ridiculous things can get. That way, other countries pause, thinking “Whoa… we don’t really want to end like that, do we ?”

  2. Anonymous Says:

    hehe, Italy is going to be the role model for third world dictatorships. Blogs are like pain in the *** for governments there. So, just develop the technology for blog censorship, and I guarantee you millions of dollars sales per year.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    (Checks calendar)

    Oh, it’s NOT April 1st today? This is serious??!!

    What a disaster. Hey, you’d better start censoring yourself in case they come after you. I mean, just because you’re not actually in the country, doesn’t mean they won’t try to block your subversive posts about the Italian football team, right? And, erm, washing machines, and stuff.


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