Italian law turns increasingly illiberal. For bloggers too

The Italian Senate has passed a law-and-order bill that, pandering to fears about immigration-related crime, would severely restrict human and civil rights for immigrants, for the homeless, and possibly for Internet users. (The bill, sponsored by the Northern League,  now goes to the House).

If the bill becomes law in its current form:

  • Doctors will be allowed to breach professional secrecy and may report to the authorities any foreigners who seek treatment and do not appear to be legally in the country. Both doctor’s groups and the Catholic church have spoken out against the measure.
  • Vigilante groups will be allowed to start street patrols to monitor and report “events that can cause harm to public security, or situations of environmental distress”.
  • Foreigners who marry an Italian citizen will have to wait two years before obtaining Italian citizenship.
  • Homeless people will have to be registered as such in a database to be maintained by the Interior Ministry.

Finally, in a move that caused much outcry in the Internet community, the Christian Democrats’ UDC centrist party introduced an amendment that shows how little our politicians understand the Internet – not merely how online social dynamics work, but even what is technically feasible and what isn’t. If the bill becomes law, any time someone is suspected of instigating criminal behavior via the Internet, the Interior Ministry may request ISPs to put in place “filtering tools” so that the offending content is blocked from public view; ISPs who do not comply within 24 hours would be fined by €50-250,000. The amendment has apparently been introduced in response to the senseless noise created by some Facebook groups celebrating rapists and the Mafia. Yet, internet experts point out that there is no way to block a single offending piece of content: Italy’s government would then require ISPs to block entire domains. Star blogger Beppe Grillo has called for civil disobedience.

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