There has been a lot of controversial news recently involving Italy and the Internet and it is hard to determine whether the Internet is seen as a friend or foe.
To start with, there has been the nomination of the Internet for the Nobel Peace Prize. Italian’s version of Wired Magazine was first campaigning the nomination of the internet for its role in igniting “dialogue, debate and consensus”. The nomination has been validated through an official proposal of 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi.
A few weeks later, Italiy shocked the world by convicting three Google executives for a video that had been published on YouTube back in 2006. Judge Oscar Magi in Milan found the Google execs guilty of invading the privacy of a disabled teenager who had been filmed being bullied by other pupils. Google took down the video after they had been notified of its existence and even helped authorities to locate the teenager who posted it but nonetheless, the Italian legal system valued the protection of privacy higher than freedom of speech. This court ruling reflects the current tensions between Europe’s commitment to privacy and US companies’ American conception of free expression.
Italy is debating about the future of the Internet. On the one hand, there is a new media decree that effectively applies the same rules to traditional broadcasters as well as video on-demand sites, which has already been approved. In a country where broadcast media is heavily controlled by its prime minister, this new media decree doesn’t seem very promising in regards to freedom of speech and the expression of opinions. On the other hand, Italy’s President of the Chamber of Deputies, Gianfranco Fini, recently invited Lawrence Lessig (American academic and political activist) to give a at the Italian Parliament, to debate openly about the future of the Internet.
It will be interesting to monitor the progress of this debate to see in which direction Italy is heading. Although all European countries have to deal with the same EU directive, the outcome and discussions held in each country are different and reflect the country’s understandings of internet governance.