Changes made last September 20 by the Chamber of Deputies to a draft law to combat cyberbullying (a draft law that now must be re-examined and voted again by the Italian Senate) move away this bill from the declared mission of more closely and effectively protecting minors harassed on the web.

These changes gave birth to the founded concern that the new rules could limit freedom of expression on the Internet, such as claimed by several opposition lawmakers and some experts.

The procedures described in the draft law, indeed, allow to obtain more easily, and without the due evaluation guarantees, the removal from the web not only of harassing content, but also of possibly legitimate criticisms that adults do against other adults.

In fact the new rules, which were originally designed to only protect children from harassment, would apply also to the harassment of adults, an issue that is already regulated by criminal law with broader guarantees of fairness.

Under the new rules, anyone, be he adult or minor, when subjectively considering to be molested by a content published on the web, may request the provider to remove it. Under the conditions currently prescribed by the draft law, it is likely that the request will be in most of the cases accepted by the provider, to prevent the intervention of the Authority for the Protection of Personal Data. The latter, according to the draft, may order the withdrawal of the content and, in case of refusal, may impose a hefty financial penalty.

A committee of experts set up at the offices of the ministers will establish the rules that the Guarantor will have to apply. The law does not allocate financial resources to set up at the offices of the Guarantor adequate professional staff to cope with new tasks in order to investigate the merits of the requests and establish a comparison between the parties.

Tags: Digital rights Freedom of expression Italy

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Publication Date: 21/09/2016
Research and Editorial Team: Alberto Spampinato