Italian bloggers are up in arms after ministers secretly resurrected their attempts to introduce a new law dubbed the “blog killer” by critics.
The proposed legislation would force online publications, whether large or small, to amend information on their sites within 48 hours of a complaint — or face fines of €12,000 ($15,700).
The “ammazza blog” amendment was first mooted a few years ago by the government of Silvio Berlusconi, but ended up being crowded out by opponents who said it would be used to punish small publications, bloggers or even social networks.
A brief attempt to turn the proposals into law last year hit the same roadblock, yet this week it was discovered that the clause had been quietly reintroduced into a draft bill on wiretapping and gag laws.
Here’s Il Fatto Quotidiano:
The law provides that each site owner is required to rectify any content on the basis of a simple request from anyone who considers themselves wronged. There is no chance to reply: anyone who does not rectify what they have published within 48 hours will pay up to €12,0000 fine.
An example could be this: a website could publish a story about somebody who had been arrested and was being held in jail, but if the individual’s lawyer wrote to say it was not true, the website would be forced to publish the correction or face the penalty.
Because the law does not seem to discriminate between complaints that have a basis in reality and those that are factually incorrect — or give publishers room to verify the truth, they are concerned that it could effectively gag bloggers, newspapers and magazines from ever publishing anything potentially controversial.
Bloggers worry that if they take a few days off they may end up being slapped with egregious fines, or could end up having to deal with constant queries from troublemakers intended to tie them up for fear of suddenly being hit with a penalty.
Unlike some arguments between bloggers and public officials, however, this is not some minor policy squabble — and has been picked up by the famous politician Antonio Di Pietro, who made his name as part of the anti-corruption investigation known as Mani pulite (“clean hands”) in the 1990s.
According to La Repubblica, Di Pietro came out all guns blazing.
“Hands off the network”, thundered Di Pietro, railing against “the heinous murder of blogging that was previously desired by the Berlusconi government. The web is a bulwark of democracy — one of the few spaces that allows citizens to get information and have their say.”