The President of the Italian Low Chamber, Blodrini, holds Google and Facebook “ethically liable” for what the users do online

According to Laura Boldrini (left wing), President of the Italian Low Chamber, Google and Facebook are ethically liable for what the users do online. Talking about the (venerable) online hoaxes phenomenon, she verbatim stated:

 They are not telcos, they have an ethical and social liability. While obviously it isn’t only their fault if hoaxes are spreading. 1

This is not the first time that Boldrini tries to extend the liability of the users to ISP, Telcos and Over the top operators and this last statement lead to think that there should be an actual agenda on this topic.

But the concept of “moral/ethic liability”  is both religious and individual, and in a democratic country where the rule of Law is supreme, is not supposed to be taken into account. On the contrary,  following a precise script, this is what we face every time that the Internet is involved: public outcry first, ethical issue next and, finally, an “ethical” regulation.

In the specific case, Boldrini’s position is wrong from whatever the side you look at it.

It is ethically dangerous because weakens the legal principle of the individual’s personal liability, thus reinforcing users’ idea that online there is no accountability.

It is legally unfeasible, because the e-commerce directive made crystal clear that ISPs cannot be forced to monitor and verify each single act of a user, and the data protection directive says, again, crystal clear, that the data protection regulation doesn’t apply to individual’s data processing (in other word: the law doesn’t work for a Facebook’s post made by a user.)

It is market’s sinking. Italy has already proven to be unable to join the digital economy race, and this regulatory approach from Boldrini is another dead weight to the Italian Telco industry.

  1. Non sono compagnie telefoniche, hanno una responsabilità morale e sociale. Anche se ovviamente non è soltanto colpa loro se si diffondono le bufale.

What “Big Brother” and “Orwellian” actually mean

A lot of people – politicians, “gurus” and “activists” use the word “Big Brother” and “Orwellian” without having read even the cover of a George Orwell’s book.

They rather want to have a look at this TED-ed short lesson, to discover what they’re actually talking about.

Is The IPhone Criminals’ Weapon of Choice?

According to NBC, Apple has been ordered by a federal judge to support the FBI in decrypting the Iphone used by the people accused of having slaughtered 14 people in San Bernardino, California, last December, 2, 2015. The court order has been necessary since Apple refused to voluntarily provide such support.

These are the bare facts, that have been turned into a horse of different colours by  bad-faith anti and pro encryption activist. The former sang the usual song “Strong Encryption Smooths Criminals”(FBI Records), while the latter waged the old flag “Weak Encryption Affects Civil Rights”.

The federal court neither asked for a backdoor nor for the enforcement  of a weaker Iphone security, but just said Apple to support the after-crime investigation. This court order doesn’t hampers people’s legal right to strong encryption, because the justice said something like “you have the right to own a strong safe, but the State has the right to try to open it whatever the mean in case of a criminal investigation”. In this context, then, the fact that Apple has been ordered to provide support to the FBI is not constitutionally illegal.

I still support strong encryption for the masses (and for companies too), but I don’t think that making a case out of this court order might help the civil right cause. It only works as as a (maybe unintended) advertising stunt for Apple that can portray itself as a “privacy shield”.

The Web is ISIS’s Nuclear Bomb

The Web is ISIS’s Nuclear Bomb. This is what Loretta Napoleoni, author of books on the economic side of terrorism, wrote in an article for the leftwinger Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano.

Napoleoni claims that – as the Marxist ideology did in the past with the “word-of-mouth” or, better, “word-of-book” – ISIS’s propaganda gets its power from a new “ideology-spreading-tool”: the Internet, and thank to the Internet will last, no matter what:

Even though, hypothetically, we should succeed in taking out all of ISIS’s warriors by bombing them and killing al Baghdadi, the ideology that these people have created and their universal message will last on the Internet. 1

I don’t have enough authority to challenge the curious association Napoleoni did between Karl Marx philosophy and ISIS’s vision of the Islamic religion, but I find grossly superficial and offensive for the victims of (every) war to compare “the Web” to a nuclear bomb.

As I wrote in a post, war is made of bullets, and bullets hurt as do (nuclear) bombs. Bombs make carnage, slaughters, shred a human being in pieces, burn, annihilate, vaporize, wipe communities, blindly kill innocents, pollute lands for centuries or millennia (ask Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors for additional info, just in case.) E-mail, newsgroups, chats, FTP (yes, Napoleoni, the Internet is not only made by HTTP) are tool of freedom designed by free people to give humans a free chance to communicate with no physical and social barrier.

Those like Napoleoni – and her cultural associates, member of the “Internet-as-a-threat Club” – should simply accept the fact that ideas are countered (and sometimes, fought) with ideas and that the worst way to challenge a disturbing statement is to censor it.

The idea that a sole statement might change somebody’s personal philosophy up to turning him into a human bomb carrier is simply wrong. Change of mind happens by way of  tragedies, loneliness, apartheid and injustice and not because of a tweet.

As per the “Internet Patrolling” advocated (not only) by Napoleoni – though sadly labelled by her as ineffective – again, let’s go back to basics: as the East Germany, Russian and Italian political police history show, to fight an enemy and prevent attacks there is no substitute for an actual, massive, ruthless and pervasive physical control. But t this is disturbing and, rightly so, nobody in the Western world is available to give a government so much power.

And here comes the brilliant solution: let’s fall back on the Internet and blame “the Web” as a radicalization tool.

No, Napoleoni, ideologies will not last because of a blog. They will stand until there will be inequality in world, it means until the end of time.

  1. Orginal text in Italian: Anche se, ipoteticamente, riuscissimo a stanare con le bombe tutti i guerrieri dello Stato Islamico e a far fuori al Baghdadi, l’ideologia che costoro hanno creato ed il loro messaggio universale in rete rimarrà

The Internet As an Intrinsic Threat: Yesbutters vs Whynotters

Italian politcians’ mantra, starting from the Chair of the Low Chamber, Boldrini and down to local parties’ minions is “The Internet is an opportunity but…” and then a stream flows of statement like “we need to regulate it”, “we need to keep it free for the righteous citizen”, “we must block hate speeches” and so on.

This reminds me of an old, untitled essay I read on Giancarlo Livraghi’s gandalf.it:

Yesbutters don’t just kill ideas.
They kill companies, even entire industries.
The yesbutters have all the answers.
Yesbut we’re different. Yesbut we can’t afford it.
Yesbut our business doesn’t need it.
Yesbut we couldn’t sell it to our workforce.
Yesbut we can’t explain it to our shareholders.
Yesbut let’s wait and see.
All the answers. All the wrong answers.

For the positive part, dedicated to the Whynotters, just follow this link.

Why the Right To Be Forgotten Is Plain Wrong (and What Is the Best Way to Protect Your Reputation)

The Right to be forgotten – not a “right” per se, by the way – is a distorted way to enforce the right to privacy and an actual form of censorship because strips from the Court’s hands the power to decide what should be known and what shouldn’t and, further more, is a way to enforce a bottoms-up censorship that a State can easily turn into a top-down dissent shutting.

The Right to be forgotten is the wrong answer to a (maybe) real question: how do you get rid of your embarrassing past if I’ve changed course of life?

Answer: instead of trying to hide the dust under the carpet by removing the search engines’ indexes, just use it at your advantage: run a blog, a social network page or whatever elicit the interest of the search engines’ robots and tell your story. This way you can counterbalance the (allegedly) negative effect of a news relating to you because a search engine will reveal  your side of the story too.

This, of course, if you are sincere in your life-changing effort because, if you’re not,  you might find yourself exposed again to the consequences of your con stunt.

Is the solution to the Right to be forgotten actually as simple as that?

No, because to do so you should be able to properly handle an argument, collect and provide evidences and effectively deliver your statement. And since Cicero’s adepts aren’t that much, it is better to go for the censorship solution: cheaper, faster and good for the powers-that-be.

The Government Censorship Machine Ready to Start?

Laura Boldrini, the leftwinger president of Italian Low Chamber (Camera dei deputati) has endorsed the settlement of a commission “for the Internet-related duty and rights”.

This commission is the tragical… sorry I meant “logical”, consequence of the dangerous “Internet Bill of Rights” campaign.

Given Boldrini’s attitude toward the Internet,  I do hope that this commission wouldn’t turn into a trojan-horse  to bash enterprise and individual rights.

The Danger of the New Crusaders and the Risk for the Medical Research

Repubblica.it, an Italian online newspaper, accounts for the cancellation of a fund-raising initiative to collect money for the research on rare disease. The cancellation has been motivated by the fear of riots provoked by animalist activists who object living animals to be used in medical research. This form of terrorism is a dangerous growing trend in Italy, and one of the reasons for this growing is that extreme animalism is not perceived as bad as its “political” sibling (thank to the support given by teen-agers oriented TV channels, politicians and artists.) I don’t see how the opinion of (former)models, self-professed experts with no impact-factor or citation-index or bloggers-on-a-mission should prevail over the facts stated by the major Italian research institution.

Anyway the consequence is that police authorities and the government aren’t taking seriously this issue letting activists to continue threatening the medical and biotech research in Italy. Of course I don’t claim that “every animalist is a terrorist” and I don’t want to enter into the semantics of both words. What I do not find fair is the justification for the use of violence in the name of an idea: the field of history is crossed by enormous rivers of blood because somebody bleieved to be absolutely right, thus taking the burden to “convert” those who disagreed.

As often happens in Italy, this is the result of the a confusion between “ethics” (that is a personal matter) and “law” (that is – or is supposed to be – a tool for balancing contradictory interests.) This confusion is likely to badly affects the feasibility of the scientific research in Italy. I still haven’t collected enough information about how big a disincentive this animalist threat is for the health companies who want to invest in Italy, but the very first hints don’t let imagine a bright future.

The Content Filtering Hysteria… again

According to the Italian online newspaper Repubblica.it, the UN-appointed expert Frank La Rue expressed concerns about the effect of an upcoming copyright-related regulation announced by the Autorità per le comunicazioni (AGCOM an independent, State-appointed body superseding the broadcast and telco secondary regulation) on of free-speech. AGCOM is trying since longtime to enforce the French HADOPI model in Italy to “fight copyright infringements”, pushing to self-assign the power to delete copyright infringing contents available on the Internet. With a rather while understandable (from a political standpoint)  convoluted prose Mr. La Rue said what a lot of people is saying: copyright is not a “gold right” and has no title to be given  an absolute stand over free speech and the other fundamental rights. But this is only a third of the story.

Second third: since, in Italy, copyright infringements are a criminal offense, only a magistrate can order both a content’s filter or removal. By letting the AGCOM act as a parallel “prosecutor and  judge” would means to invade the attribution of the judiciary system and endanger the the “due process” principle.This is not allowed by the Constitution.

Third third: copyright doesn’t only belong to broadcast companies, music labels and movie producers. Every Internet user who publishes a photo, a movie, a song or a text has the right to not be stolen of its intellectual property. The AGCOM proposed regulation doesn’t address clearly this issue so only two options are possible: either the regulation only cares of the big companies and that would be non acceptable, or, on the contrary, will be open to protect everybody – i.e. will become useless, since there will likely be a tide of claim.

The end of the story is that, whatever the power belonging to AGCOM, it can’t invade the prerogative of the Court, notwithstanding the supporting opinion received by the AGCOM from some legal scholar maybe not much familiar with the intricacies of the Italian criminal procedural code.

 

Search Engines and the Hypocricy of Filtering

Another step toward the end of the Google’s “we’re just a neutral platform, ain’t nothing to do with those who publish illegal content” defense: according to The Register Google and Microsoft agreed to tweak its algorithms to prevent child-pornography-related searches.

This decision has two downfalls: the first is that in the upcoming trial it will be harder for a search-engine company to pledge innocent against the accusation of direct or contributory infringement since Google and Microsoft made deadly clear that it is actually possible to “handle” the way its engines work. The second is that by targeting the search engine result as a way to counter illegal content only stops the “casual” and final user, while the real criminal will stay free to spread their venom. In other word, focusing on content filter is just a PR stunt to lead Average Joe in believing that the Gov’s are doing fine, so no more “public scandal”  on mainstream media will bother the Powers-that-be.

The criminals thank you all for the gift.