LIMITS ON CONTENT The Italian authorities engage in some blocking of internet sites, though to date there have been no known restrictions on politically oriented content, and Italians have access to the websites of a wide range of domestic and international news sources and human rights groups. Since 2006, online gambling has been permitted only via state-licensed websites, and ISPs are required to block access to international or unlicensed gambling sites identified on a blacklist compiled by the Autonomous Administration of State Monopolies (AAMS).
Philip Willan, “Italy to Remove Public WiFi Restrictions,” Network World, November 5, 2010, http://www.networkworld.com/news/2010/110510-italy-to-remove-public-wi-fi.html; Luca Annunziata, “Addio Pisanu, o arrivederci (update 2)” [Farewell Pisanu, or See You Soon (update 2)], Punto Informatico, December 22, 2010, http://puntoinformatico.it/3061069/PI/News/addio-pisanu-arrivederci-update-2.aspx (in Italian).
Telecom Italia, “Domestic Market,” updated August 9, 2010, http://www.telecomitalia.com/tit/en/corporate/investors/business_areas_competitive_scenario/domestic_market.html.
Lorenzo Pupillo, Duct and Pole Sharing: An Operator’s Perspective (Rome: Telecom Italia, April 10, 2008), slide 14, http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/35/61/40460866.pdf.
Michael Day, “Silvio Berlusconi caught out trying to stifle media,” The Independent, March 18, 2010, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/berlusconi-caught-out-trying-to-stifle-media-1923147.html.
Data Protection Authority, “The Italian Data Protection Authority: Who We Are,” November 17, 2009, http://www.garanteprivacy.it/garante/doc.jspID=1669109.
ITALY FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net The list of banned sites is available on the AAMS website and updated regularly.15 A similar blacklist system is in place for websites containing child pornography. A law passed in February 2006 (Law No. 6) called for the establishment of a National Center for the Fight against Child Pornography on the Internet within the Postal and Communications Police Service. Based on its own research and on complaints from citizens, the center maintains a list of sites deemed inappropriate and forwards it to ISPs for blocking.16 As with the AAMS list, the child pornography blacklist is publicly available, though some child advocates have raised concerns that this encourages visits to the sites by users with circumvention tools.
ISPs also offer subscribers “family internet” packages that block access to adult pornography and sites with violent content, in exchange for a small premium.
In addition to blocking entire websites, Italian authorities have issued formal requests for the removal of specific content. Overall, Italy ranked sixth in a list of countries published by Google based on the number of official requests for content removal. It issued requests between January 2010 and June 2010, resulting in the removal of 1,655 items (or 97 percent of those requested), the vast majority of which had been posted on YouTube.
The Google list did not explain the justifications for the requests,17 though presumably they would have included child pornography and copyright infringement.
More worrying to free expression advocates have been judicial decisions that potentially extend registration requirements to blogs, or that appear to hold websites liable for content posted by users. Government attempts to introduce legislation that would require websites to engage in prepublication censorship have also raised concerns. In the face of public criticism, however, self-censorship requirements for ISPs and content providers had not been enacted as of the end of 2010.
The registration issue stems from a 1948 law against the “clandestine press.” Drawing on that law, a regulation issued in 200118 holds that anyone who wants to provide a news service, including on the internet, must be a “registered” journalist in the Communication Workers’ Registry (ROC), with membership in the national journalists’ association. The rules have generally not been applied to bloggers, and in practice millions of blogs are published in Italy without repercussions. However, in September 2008, a judge in Sicily found local author Carlo Ruta guilty of publishing a “clandestine newspaper” in the form of a blog, which in this case contained detailed research on connections between politicians and organized crime. Ruta was fined ˆ250 and forced to take down his blog, though he replaced The blacklist is available (in Italian) at http://www.aams.gov.it/site.phpid=2484.
State Police, “Centro nazionale per il contrasto alla pedopornografia sulla rete” [National Center for the Fight against Child Pornography on the Internet], March 10, 2010, http://www.poliziadistato.it/articolo/view/10232/ (in Italian).
Google, “Transparency Report: Government Requests,” http://www.google.com/transparencyreport/governmentrequests/;
Ed Felten, “Google Publishes Data on Government Data and Takedown Requests,” Freedom to Tinker (blog), April 20, 2010, http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/blog/felten/google-publishes-data-government-data-and-takedown-requests.
Law No. 62, March 7, 2001, “Nuove norme sull’editoria e sui prodotti editoriali” [New Rules on Publishing and Publishing Products], available at http://www.interlex.it/testi/l01_62.htm.
ITALY FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net it with a message linking visitors to his new website.19 While the law is rarely applied in this way, many people who create websites on a range of issues, including scholarly research on foreign policy, collaborate with registered journalists to protect themselves from potential legal action.The apparent push to hold ISPs and websites responsible for user-posted content has been manifested in several separate incidents in recent years. Perhaps the most prominent case in this regard involved a 2006 video that was uploaded to Google Video, a videosharing site operated by Google before it acquired YouTube. The video clip showed a mentally disabled child being bullied by his classmates. Although it remained online for two months and became quite popular, Google administrators removed it shortly after they were notified. Nevertheless, the city of Milan and the advocacy group Vivi Down sued four top Google executives for defamation and violation of the privacy protection law. In Italy, executives may be held legally responsible for a company’s actions, and the privacy law prohibits the use of someone else’s personal information to do them harm or make a profit.
In February 2010, a judge found that the video was obviously posted without the victim’s permission, and that Google was profiting from the resulting site traffic through online advertisements. The court sentenced three of the four executives to suspended six-month jail sentences, and acquitted them on the defamation charges. Freedom of expression advocates criticized the ruling, arguing that it effectively required websites to carry out prepublication screening of videos, a costly exercise that would open the door to abuse.However, given that Italy has a civil-law rather than a common-law system, and that inconsistent judicial interpretations are not unusual, it remains unclear whether the Google decision will set a significant precedent.Also in early 2010, the government signaled its intention to extend television broadcasting regulations to websites that host videos.23 The new rules, known as the Romani decree, were first proposed in January 2010. The initial draft required all websites showing videos—including blogs, online news outlets, and video-sharing websites—to first obtain a license from the government, and subjected them to fines of up to ˆ150,000 in the event of copyright infringement.24 This would effectively require websites to monitor all uploaded John Ozimek, “How an Italian Judge Made the Internet Illegal,” Register, September 26, 2008, http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/09/26/italian_law_kills_blog/.
Interview with Luca Bolognini, president of the Italian Institute for Privacy, June 22, 2010.
Reporters Without Borders, “Google Conviction Could Lead to Prior Control over Videos Posted Online, Says RSF,” International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX), February 25, 2010, http://www.ifex.org/italy/2010/02/25/google_conviction/; Elisabetta Povoledo, “Italian Judge Cites Profit as Justifying a Google Conviction,” New York Times, April 12, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/13/business/global/13google.html.
Manlio Cammarata, “Google–Vivi Down, una sentenza da cancellare” [Google–Vivi Down, A Sentence To Be Deleted], InterLex, April 14, 2010, http://www.interlex.it/675/google2.htm (in Italian).
Stacy Meichtry and Giada Zampano, “Italy Set to Extend TV Rules to Web Videos,” Wall Street Journal, February 3, 2010, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703338504575041401049214106.html.
Reporters Without Borders, “Proposed Decree Would Require Websites Showing Videos to Obtain License,” IFEX, January 21, 2010, http://www.ifex.org/italy/2010/01/21/video_licence/.
ITALY FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net content, coming in some cases from millions of users. Following a public outcry, the decree was amended to exclude blogs, video-sharing sites, and online news publications. However, websites providing video content or live streaming for profit, such as internet-protocol television (IPTV) services, would be covered. 25 They would be required to register with AGCOM and face a ceiling on advertisement. An early draft included some AGCOM oversight of content as well, and while this provision was later withdrawn by the government, some observers remained convinced that attempts to impose content censorship would come up again in the future. The revised decree passed at the end of March 2010.
Some critics have suggested that the Romani decree was motivated by Berlusconi’s financial and political interest in maintaining the popularity of television versus online video.26 In another apparent manifestation of this interest, Berlusconi’s Mediaset conglomerate had sued Google’s YouTube in July 2008 over user-posted clips from Mediaset-owned shows.27 YouTube has a policy of promptly removing copyright-infringing content as soon as it is notified, but in December 2009 a Rome court ruled against the video-sharing site, holding it responsible for the violations of copyright.Even in the absence of legal requirements, ISPs tend to exercise some informal selfcensorship, declining to host content that may prove controversial or that could create friction with powerful entities or individuals. Online writers also exercise caution to avoid libel suits by public officials, whose litigation—even when unsuccessful—often takes a significant financial toll on defendants in the traditional media. The Italian government does not proactively manipulate news websites. However, coverage in traditional media does affect what is published on news websites, giving the outlets controlled by the prime minister an indirect influence over online reporting.
Blogging has become popular in Italy, though television remains by far the leading medium for obtaining news. Most policymakers, popular journalists, and figures in the entertainment industry have their own blogs, as do many ordinary citizens. Socialnetworking sites, especially Facebook and Twitter, have emerged as crucial tools for Guido Scorza, “Decreto Romani, meglio ma non bene” [Romani Decree, Better But Not Good], Punto Informatico, March 2, 2010, http://punto-informatico.it/2823280/PI/Commenti/decreto-romani-meglio-ma-non-bene.aspx (in Italian).
Jeff Israely, “Berlusconi vs. Google: Will Italy Censor YouTube” Time, January 22, 2010, http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1955569,00.html.
Chiara Remondini, “Mediaset Sues Google, YouTube, Seeking EU500 Million (Update2),” Bloomberg, July 30, 2008, http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/newspid=newsarchive&sid=aYyj.ATOyYDs.
By contrast, a Spanish court, which also ruled on the case because the plaintiff was a Spanish subsidiary of Mediaset, rejected the demand for compensation, arguing that YouTube was only an “intermediary” and thus not responsible for the content.
Moreover, the judge stated that specific takedown requests must be presented for each clip lest YouTube be forced to exercise prepublication content control. See Gaia Bott, “YouTube, il Grande Fratello va asportato” [YouTube, Big Brother Should Be Removed], Punto Informatico, December 16, 2009, http://punto-informatico.it/2773039_2/PI/News/youtube-grande-fratellova-asportato.aspx (in Italian); Mauro Vecchio, “YouTube, Mediaset incornata” [YouTube, Mediaset Goring], Punto Informatico, September 23, 2010, http://punto-informatico.it/2996681/PI/News/youtube-mediaset-incornata.aspx (in Italian); Ryan Lawler, “YouTube Loses Copyright Case in Italian Court,” GigaOM, December 17, 2009, http://gigaom.com/video/youtubeloses-copyright-case-in-italian-court/.
ITALY FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net organizing protests and other mass gatherings, such as concerts, parties, or political rallies.
As of the end of 2010, Italy had about 17 million Facebook users. In December 2009, a “No Berlusconi Day” protest calling for the prime minister’s resignation was organized by bloggers and publicized almost entirely over the internet and social-networking sites. It drew roughly 100,000 people.29 In December 2010, students used the internet to organize a protest against a bill that substantially modified the structure of Italy’s university system.