When you think of online censorship, China or other oppressive regimes spring to mind. But you don't need to look any further than Italy, one of Europe's largest countries, one of the birthplaces of 'civilization,' to see how abusive regimes are trying to control something they don't understand, the web.There have been plenty of cases where the most fundamental principles of the web have come under threat in Italy, the very fact that YouTube may not be able to operate is testament to that.
But it goes even further, Wikipedia has now put up a notice, on the Italian version of the site, warning users that if a proposed law passes in Italy, the site may have to shut down completely.
The Italian Wikipedia is home to 870,000 articles and is the fourth largest local Wikipedia version.
"Today, unfortunately, the very pillars on which Wikipedia has been built - neutrality, freedom, and verifiability of its contents - are likely to be heavily compromised by paragraph 29 of a law proposal, also known as 'DDL intercettazioni' (Wiretapping Act)," Wikipedia warns.
The proposed law has deep implications for, basically, any website on the planet.
It requires website administrators to post "corrections" to anything they publish at the sole request of an individual who believes to have been harmed by the claims in the article, video and so on.
"This proposal, which the Italian Parliament is currently debating, provides, among other things, a requirement to all websites to publish, within 48 hours of the request and without any comment, a correction of any content that the applicant deems detrimental to his/her image," Wikipedia explains.
"Unfortunately, the law does not require an evaluation of the claim by an impartial third judge," it adds.
The problems with this requirement are so obvious and wide ranging that it's clear that anyone proposing them has no idea how the web works or even what it is.
The requirements would be hard to follow by small sites and blogs, but when dealing with massive sites that host user-generated content with little or no editorial oversight, i.e. Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and so on and so forth, the requirements are impossible to enforce.
Of course, that's before reaching the core issue of free speech and basic human rights. Being obligated to publish any "correction" coming from anyone claiming to have been hurt in whatever form it is without any commentary is hard to see as anything else than brutal censorship.