Project Gutenberg and the Crusader of Copyright

In the name of the new crusade against the “pirates of copyright” the public prosecutor of Rome seizes, the site of the cultural project that digitizes and puts online copyright-free books. But neither the court nor the Guardia di Finanza has noticed. Is it a justifiable mistake? by Andrea Monti – originally published in Italian by Infosec.News
Continue reading “Project Gutenberg and the Crusader of Copyright”

COVID-19: the Western counternarrative against disinformation coming from East

A video published on NATO’s Youtube channel outlines the Alliance’s strategy to counter Russian-Chinese disinformation. But the “fluid truth” of our times does not lend itself to being locked in the cage of ideologyOriginally published in Italian by

by Andrea Monti – Adjunct professor of law and order – University of Chieti-Pescara

The role of the media in the information war that broke out between the US and China and fought on the COVID-19 field is well highlighted by the video published on May 12 on the NATO Youtube channel titled How is NATO responding to disinformation on COVID-19?

In (chrono)logical order, the video establishes the first rule of the Western counter-information strategy: ignore the opponent’s propaganda to avoid “acknowledging” it and amplifying its circulation.

The second is to create a joint information base: with a somewhat naive game of graphic emphasis, the video (minute 0.53) specifies that

Nato regularly shares information and insight with allies and partners

and then adds

and counters false narratives.

The use of logical connective ⋀ instead of building a cause-effect relationship changes the overall meaning of the message: “NATO shares information AND fights false narratives” means something different from “NATO shares information TO fight false narratives”. The difference is subtle but substantial: information sharing is presented as a value in itself and not as a tool for an end (which, in reality, it is).

The third rule is to provide “facts” to journalists. After graphically enunciating this slogan, the video leaves the floor to NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, who states

I believe that the best response to disinformation and propaganda is free and independent press, is the work of journalists. When they ask the difficult questions, then disinformation and propaganda will never succeed.

Having “authoritative” and unquestionable sources at their disposal allows journalists to give consistency to theses that, otherwise, would only be artificial reconstructions of unrelated facts. Self-attribution of the power to affirm “the truth” through the selection of facts to present to the public opinion is the central element of the entire communication strategy: it is the hook on which the whole information chain hangs.

The fourth is the control of the spread of disinformation through “research groups” to measure the impact of disinformation, identify the fake-news spreaders and “vaccinate” the public against the propaganda virus… of the enemy. In other words: the aim is to make sure that people believe the propaganda of the “good guys”, to defuse the deflagrating effects of the enemy one.

In this case, as in that of the press conference of the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, on China’s responsibility in the spread of the Coronavirus and the Chinese response entrusted to a cartoon, we face a skirmish in which both parties use the “Goebbels doctrine” and what I have called “the second law of propaganda”.

The hammering repetition of a narrative to the point of making it perceived as “true”, is flanked by the proliferation of more or less reliable “sources” from which flows a deluge of news. An overabundance of information males a phenomenon difficult to understand and induces the public to an act of faith: I don’t understand, but if “the experts” say so, it must be true.

Media play a crucial role in this game, both in terms of open support to a party and as the victim of a more or less unacknowledged instrumentalisation of their role. “Partisan” articles, therefore, are flanked by “investigations” and “scoops” made possible by “confidential documents” and other information “escaped” by the strict control of the institutional structures. Sometimes it is so, as in the Snowden case, sometimes it is a matter of holes left voluntarily open to let out what is necessary to start an “exclusive” journalistic investigation.

Media strategic role y is clear: lack of evidence is compensated by a counternarrative about the scarce Chinese transparency and media “credibility” amplifies this position, thus making the audience resilient against external threats.

It is apparent, then, that on both sides of the Iron Curtain methods and objectives are the same. Regardless of its calibre, a bullet always does the same job, whether it is fired from the East or from the West.

COVID-19: the fear of a Police State created a State of policemen

Originally published in Italian by

The Italian controversies on contact-tracing highlights a cultural failure: the misunderstanding of privacy and how to protect it. In short: for fear of an abstract danger of a Police State, we have accepted the concrete fact of having transformed Italy into a State of policemen. A State where the concrete and immediate application of the law protecting public order and (health) safety is entrusted with confusing rules applied arbitrarily. Continue reading “COVID-19: the fear of a Police State created a State of policemen”

Coronavirus: how does Chinese propaganda work

by Andrea Monti – originally published in Italian by

How and why the Chinese satirical video is a masterpiece of propaganda, that contrasts with a factual and calm narrative American action based on illations and not on facts. The analysis of Andrea Monti, adjunct professor of Order and public security at the Gabriele d’Annunzio University of Chieti-Pescara

China officially responds with a video titled Once upon a virus to the accusations launched by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in an interview with Abc. This video is a masterpiece of propaganda that counters with a factual and calm narrative the American action based on illations and not on facts. But this is just the tip of the iceberg because Once upon a virus is an incredible PsyOps exercise. Continue reading “Coronavirus: how does Chinese propaganda work”

Platforms’ liability for news theft

by Andrea Monti (originally published in Italian by IlSole24Ore – May 1, 2020)

The criminal investigations against the unlawful distribution of newspapers, periodicals and books are interesting in several respects. Firstly, it is a step towards making those who commit a crime by hiding behind the screen of a smartphone, i.e. the user of a service, responsible for their course of action. Secondly, it focuses on “platforms”, i.e. those operators who “rely” on the access network to make profits and who therefore can immediately provide data to prosecutors and perform selective blocking. Thirdly, and as a consequence, it puts again on the table the issue of the actual (non) neutrality of platforms. EU Directive 31/00 is evident in this respect: operators who do not interfere in users’ behaviour must not perform pre-emptive monitoring. But those who, like platforms, are not “neutral” to those who use them should not be able to take advantage of this possibility, as has been happening for some time in Italy and Europe.

Hopefully, the European Union eventually decide to give platforms an autonomous legal status and liability. However, these criminal investigations create a legal precedent on another very technical but essential issue: the possibility of configuring a responsibility (whether under the criminal intent or other liability doctrines) for crime by design. The idea is simple: as in any human action, when somebody decides to do something, has to make sure that it does not cause damage and upholds the law. If somebody designs a platform (or a business model that exploits it) without mechanisms that prevent its illicit use, and the absence of these mechanisms is what makes my product/service successful, then he cannot deflect his liability.

In this specific case, therefore, it is necessary to understand the way Telegram works and assess, for example, if it is a provider of a press distribution service and then if the entire revenue generation model is based on service neutrality.

Finally, this case is the test-bed for that case law (Cass. penale, sez.II sent. 11959/20) that, after only twenty-five years from the first theoretical elaborations, finally recognizes the nature of “thing” to data and files. This jurisprudence opens the possibility to charge a defendant not only of copyright infringements but also of serious crimes such as money laundering or receiving stolen goods. In this case, it would be possible to claim more substantial charges for the perpetrators of the offences, and more dissuasive for those who have “nasty thoughts”.