Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Be afraid – Berlusconi's plans for the internet

In the same week that Berlusconi’s much contested minister for education, Mariastella Gelmini, took a leaf out of Obama’s book and created a youtube channel to address students directly*, Silvio Berlusconi announced to the world that he would be seeking to sort out the internet at next year’s G8 summit which will be held (disgracefully – given that the events of Genoa remain a festering wound still) in Italy next year.

You may have thought that a) the internet is just fine as it is, thanks very much, and b) that Berlusconi at a G8 summit is the last person/place to fix any problems it may have. He’s having none of it, though, saying to assembled journalists during the week:

“The G8 already has the task of regulating financial markets […] I think that at the next G8 one can bring to the table a proposal to regulate the internet system”1

Italy’s parliament is already well ahead in the stakes to ‘fix’ the internet, with the left-wing opposition having quietly introduced a bill that seeks to bring bloggers under regulation demanding that any site that publishes regularly and/or contains publicity material (including google adsense) be considered a regular publication legally – which would force bloggers to conform to the restrictive regulations that date back to Mussolini period. Bloggers are transferring their sites to servers outside Italy in droves. Obviously the argument hasn’t been discussed on the television or in the newspapers at any length, given that both tv and the printed press have, at best a dismissive view of the internet, and at worst an open hostility.

What Berlusconi’s plans for the internet may be no-one knows, though his Minister for the Interior gave a hint during the week when he remarked that the government is dealing with the various internet service providers in Italy in order to ensure that individual unchanging ip addresses are furnished to internet users, to allow the government to crack down on terrorism threats.

There’s precious little hope for Italy, but let’s hope that the rest of the G8, and the United States in particular tell Berlusconi what he can do with his proposal.

*The government has repeatedly claimed that the media has misrepresented the decree passed by the government that affects the school and university systems. An alternative view of Gelmini’s address, though, is that it’s an attempt to reach the thousands of students who simply don’t watch the tv anymore – aware of the state of Italian tv and who controls it.

1. Reuters 3/12/2008