Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Curtailing blogging

A huge number of email commenters have asked me if I have seen these two posts at Gates of Vienna on state curtailment of blogging.

The short answer is, "yes".

The first one I came to through Timmy's post at The Business, quoting Beppe Grillo's blog (and which I brought up on Blogger TV on Monday).
The point being, of course, that no licence is required. Although, thanks to two quite entirely insane (in my ever so humble opinion) Italian politicians, that might not continue to be the case:
The Levi-Prodi law lays out that anyone with a blog or a website has to register it with the ROC, a register of the Communications Authority, produce certificates, pay a tax, even if they provide information without any intention to make money.
The Levi-Prodi law obliges anyone who has a website or a blog to get a publishing company and to have a journalist who is on the register of professionals as the responsible director.

Can you actually imagine this? The idiocy behind this is simply stunning. That every blog must be registered? That someone on the register of journalists (what is a register of journalists anyway?) must be involved? Can anyone seriously believe that this is being proposed in a Western Democracy?

If this actually happens I can tell you what will come next though. It's not all that tough to write a script that will generate a blog for you, nor would it be to get another to fill in the relevant forms. The office doing the registration will be inundated with applications, millions upon millions of them. If this goes through then I think the Italian State is going to find out about Slashdot and what a few tens of thousands of enraged geeks can do to you.

It is, of course, an absolutely fucking insane idea but it should come as no surprise that one of those proposing the law, Romano Prodi, was the President of the EU Commission from 1999 to 2004. Just saying, is all...

The second post is one that I have rather more intimate knowledge, for it is about our old friend, the EU's Proposal for a Council Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia [PDF] which I first wrote about in early February after I had obtained a copy of the first draft.
Furthermore, whilst it requires member states to prosecute violations, as defined in the document, it requires them to do so under the methods of corpus juris; that is the Continental system whereby you must prove your innocence, a concept that goes against one of the most fundamental tenets of the British justice system.

The Framework also deals with what it calls "Legal persons", which includes companies, charities, etc. Under these provisions, if one of your employees, for instance, says something racist that is reported, your company can be banned from "commercial trading", banned from "receiving public funds" or even compulsorily wound-up.

Most worryingly of all for we bloggers, there are Articles, concerned with "information systems", contained within the document that are specifically aimed to cover blogs and websites.

Under the provisions of this framework John Band of Shot By Both Sides, for instance, would not simply have had to shut down his blog: he would be in prison, no matter where his blog was hosted.

As a British citizen, the British government would have been required to prosecute him. Had he fled to another EU country, that country would either be forced to extradite him back to Britain or put him on trial through their system.

My follow-up post in April created a blogstorm, as I filleted and released the final draft of the document [PDF].
Please also note that the only genocides so far included are the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide: the pogroms of Stalin and other Communists are not mentioned at all (which was something of a sticking point for our Eastern European partners).

But, as I have said, more serious than the assault on free speech that this represents, is that this is the beginning of an EU criminal jurisdiction: from here on in, our veto on Home Affairs will become increasingly meaningless.

Just as the EU is using its trade and environmental powers to gain more control over the economies of the member states (by encouraging them to raise revenue through "green taxes" which will then fall under the environmental competence) so it is gaining power over our justice system—again, not only through "green" legislation but also through emotive issues such as this. Both Miliband (at the very least) and Cameron are complicit in this process.

And don't forget that the only people who can initiate legislation in the EU are the unelected Commission and that these laws are effectively binding on all future parliaments, violating a fundamental princple of British democracy. Be afraid: be very afraid.

This blogburst led to my 15 minutes of fame on the front page of the Telegraph, in an article written by Bruno Waterfield.
The measures are contained in the European Union's Racism and Xenophobia Directive and could hit controversial European bloggers, even if their websites are hosted in America.

Chris Mounsey, the 29 year old behind The Devil's Kitchen blog, said: "There is potential for this to have worldwide application. Free speech is at the centre of blogging. Part of the reason bloggers can tell the truth is because it is difficult to pin them down. This law tries to do it."

So, yes, I know this particular piece of EU crap very well. But, hey, I'm tired: your humble Devil keeps on shouting and nothing ever seems to happen: UKIP are still tiny, the Tories are still pussy-footing around hoping not to have to make any kind of decision and NuLabour are busy giving away our country.

There's so much to shout about, as we rage against the dying of the light...


Thomas Gordon said...


As usual finger on the pulse.

This has gastly overtones of 1984-byt seeing a Prodi was in the pay of the KGB this is hardly surprising.

IMVHO-Is this new proposed law anything to do with the most Active blogs in Europe being centre right?

Shug Niggurath said...

It was always going to happen. Something people can do that aint taxed?

Come on folks... think about it!

You know newspapers and books are VAT free (for now)... well government sees a huge revenue stream in the arena of publishing, and that the accessing of that revenue stream could potentially see them exercise state control over the populace? Even better - two birds with the one stone.