ALCEI Press Release – Sept. 11 2007

Repression and censorship. The ghost is still around in Italy and in Europe. A distressing statement by European commissioner Frattini leads to a devastating form of censorship: the prohibition of words or concepts. The way is open for punishing who dares to “think” too much.

We are concerned – but unfortunately not surprised – by EU Commissioner Frattini’s proposal to impose selective censorship on words used on the internet. «I do intend» – said Mr. Frattini to Reuters on September 10, 2007 – «to carry out a clear exploring exercise with the private sector … on how it may be possible to use technology to prevent people from using or searching dangerous words like bomb, kill, genocide or terrorism».

Mr. Frattini’s suggestion is unacceptable, extremely dangerous and a serious threat against free speech. The “internet-teaches-how-to-make bombs” nonsense has been around since the net’s early years. Along with “copyright infringements” and misrepresented child protection urges – as ALCEI denounced over ten years ago. The “internet-bomb” issue has always been one of the excuses to invoke censorship and repression.

It is obvious – and largely proven by facts – that “filtering” or “prohibiting” words or concepts is totally useless against criminals, while it turns into a weapon to kill freedom of information and expression. Preventing all citizens from discussing controversial topics doesn’t reduce violence, murder or terrorism.

Commissioner Frattini’s position is not the only example. It is just one of many “waves” of a progressive and continuous process of violating civil liberties with the excuse of vaguely identified “ethical principles”. As is proven, for instance, by the serious concerns raised by the Italian Ministry of Communication’s request to ISPs – with a total lack of legal grounds – to block access to a German-hosted website whose contents were, indeed, awful and unacceptable – but that should be fought with the weapons of culture and criticism and not with a furious and fanatic repression that turns the monsters into victims.

We can hope, maybe, that these uncooth statements will be corrected by some dose of common sense in European and Italian authorities. But the sheer fact that they are publicly announced is a worrying symptom.

Once again, the warnings that ALCEI has been issuing for thirteen years are proven to be true. The situation, over time, is getting worse. That plans for censorship and repression are now so bluntly revealed shows that there is a real state of emergency for civil liberties in Italy – and in Europe.