Case publishing, government guidelines
The case of the new publishing bill approved by the Council of Ministers continues to arouse controversy and discussion. The obligation to register the majority of Italian websites in the Register of Communication Operators (ROC), envisaged by the law, has been judged by many to be absurd or liberticidal.
While substantial changes are becoming more and more probable once the design arrives in the Chamber, the president of the Culture and Publishing Commission Piero Folena confirms to Punto Informatico that the official start of the parliamentary process will take place today (October 24), with the hearing of Undersecretary Ricardo Levi, curator of the provision.
At Punto Informatico Folena declares that “it is necessary that users remain mobilized, however: they put pressure on them. I hope that authoritative journalists will also have their say ”. According to Folena, “ignorance of what the Net is is very widespread, very bipartisan. Many see the Internet as something to guard against. Instead, the Internet is now the way to communicate, have fun, produce, live for millions of people. It shouldn’t be harnessed, you need to have a liberal attitude ”. “From my point of view it is very simple: those who want to take advantage of the contributions for the press register with the court, accepting the rules in force, those who do not want them do not”.
To find out the government’s position on the matter, PI also met Beatrice Magnolfi, undersecretary of the Ministry for Reforms and Innovations in the Public Administration.
IT Point: According to what the bill currently provides, blogs, personal sites, forums are “editorial products” in the same way as traditional newspapers, and must also be registered in the Register of Communication Operators (registration that leads with self bureaucracy, procedures, expenses). In addition to being a proposal that risks tightening the already tight noose of the Italian bureaucracy even more, it is in effect a sort of web tax. How do you judge this regulatory intervention?
Beatrice Magnolfi: The publishing bill is not clear enough in the definition of an editorial product. Requesting specific definitions from the Communications Authority and, therefore, the decision on which sites should be required to register with the ROC.
PI: Obligation that many dispute. What is the purpose of this registration?
BM: I undoubtedly find it correct that this registration is mandatory for those sites which, both in terms of organizational structure, function and frequency, are similar to traditional newspapers. On the other hand, it seems inappropriate to me that blogs and personal sites are subject to the same obligation.
Blogs must remain a field of free expression, not subject to the same constraints as a newspaper. It would also be unrealistic to think of controlling their content, without considering that they can be made from abroad. The Net is a new phenomenon, which requires ad hoc content regulation, defined with different criteria than in the past, rigorously multistakeholder.
PI: The need to register with the ROC, however, seems to go in a different direction: what does the government do, in practice, to protect these freedoms and rights?
BM: It is with these intentions that the Italian Government has recently promoted, together with the United Nations, the definition of an Internet Bill of Rights, a Charter of the rights of the network which has as its main purpose the protection of the freedom of the web, expanding its access. and ensuring the plurality of opinions and the safety of users. But be careful: this does not mean that crimes, if committed, should not be punished, as indeed the law already provides: the freedom of the Internet also passes from the duties of the users as well as from their rights. Freedom of opinion must never be freedom of insults.
PI: But given that you yourself say that the law already provides for these crimes to be prosecuted, do you think it was really necessary what – in essence – is a tightening of online publications?
BM: For online newspapers, I would not call it a tightening, but a regulatory act which for these types of sites can also represent an opportunity for growth and consolidation of one’s authority.
PI: The Web, however, is mainly made up of sites of ordinary citizens, who certainly have nothing in common with a real editorial product and therefore it makes no sense to be registered with the ROC. In your opinion, how is it possible that a law with such macroscopic imprecision has come so far in the parliamentary process, among other things in the summer, without anyone having mobilized to modify it?
BM: First of all, it is a bill, which has yet to begin the parliamentary process. Then it seems clear to me the will, starting from the clarifications of Undersecretary Levi and the statements of Minister Gentiloni, not to implement an extensive interpretation of the articles of the bill.
PI: And don’t you think it’s appropriate to act? For example by opening a discussion table to change the legislation as it is currently presented?
BM: It seems to me that the discussion has not only already opened, but is already underlining the need to make changes to the current text. Surely the measure must continue to be followed, and like all issues concerning the Internet, it must take into account an approach that involves all Internet subjects, starting with users. It is not essential to be personally expert in everything, it is enough to know how to listen to the world of skills. This is the reason why we have set up an “Internet Governance Advisory Committee” at the ministry, which brings together some of the leading Italian experts on the Internet, starting with Stefano Rodotà: I hope the progress of this legislative initiative and the others that the Government will want to hire in the future will take greater account of this resource.
PI: Returning to the bill. Some observers have found a problem of constitutionality, since, by requiring the registration of anyone expressing their thoughts online, it would limit the freedom of expression of citizens. Is that so?
BM: I don’t see an anti-constitutionality problem if the rules don’t apply to blogs and personal sites.
PI: The bill, born from a 2003 proposal by Hon. Bonaiuti, but which met with bipartisan consents, has exposed a discrete inadequacy of a part of Italian politics to deal with the most urgent issues of innovation, and has raised bitter controversy from technicians and observers. The request for a renewal of the political class is back in a loud voice, but there is often a certain reluctance to talk about these topics, what do you think?
BM: I think that among the subjects at risk of the digital divide there is the “adult male with a secretary”, which corresponds to the identikit of many management groups, not just politics.
Speaking seriously, there is no doubt that a new sensitivity on the part of the political class is needed in the approach to the issues of technological innovation. The Net draws new boundaries of the world, prefigures new instruments of representation and democracy, redefines the organization of work, creates new cognitive paradigms.
Edited by Luca Spinelli