Quick Edit | Internet authoritarians

Quick Edit | Internet authoritarians

After China, it is Italy’s turn to experiment with policing the Internet. The Italian government under Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has unveiled a draft decree that requires sites such as Google and YouTube to vet content that is harmful for minors. This includes pornographic and violent items. The decree requires telecom providers to shut any site not complying with the rules or face hefty fines.

That’s where the trouble starts. In good Orwellian fashion, there’s an unspecified “authority" to handle all this.

All this strikes at the heart of the freedom of the Internet. Companies quickly remove content that is unacceptable: there is an active Net community that flags such matters.

The Italian experience tells us that squelching Net freedom is often too tempting for politicians of all stripes: it does not matter whether they’re “democrats" or authoritarian. If content on the Net hits them, all niceties disappear in a jiffy. It’s time the Internet is recognized as a global public good and put beyond the reach of insecure politicians.