Something is going on in the blogosphere today that probably will not get the attention Italian bloggers are hoping for. They are on a so-called “blog strike,” protesting a law that has become known as the “Alfano Law” in Italy which requires any one entity or person which posts so-called “offensive” information on their site to take it down within 48 hours or risk being fined – heavily. That’s the essence of the measure, which I have been able to gather in cyberspace, but much of the coverage on this issue is naturally biased because it is written by bloggers themselves. I have tried to no avail (& I am a pretty damn good researcher) to find an English translation of the text of this statute. If anyone has one, I would appreciate them posting a link in a comment here.
I write as an award-winning journalist and know that with that profession comes great responsibility to “get it right;” however, as clearly evidenced in the wake of Michael Jackson’s death, the need to get it right these days, even by professional journalists, is far outweighed by the need to report it quickly. Bloggers, who now think of themselves as “citizen journalists” want to be able to blab about whatever they feel like without any responsibility for the repercussions which might follow their published opinions.
As an American journalist and lawyer, I value the freedom of expression we are afforded in this country but also understand that it brings great responsibility. Further, what is offensive in one community, such as a town in the rural south, may be nothing much in liberal New York City. It’s a fluctuating measure of morality and is judged accordingly in this country. As to the new Italian Law, I would not presume to take an opinion on it one way or another without seeing the actual statute.
Yet, the Alfano Law seems to deal with material that may be blatantly inaccurate or defamatory. In this country there are civil and/or criminal actions available to offended parties, as I am sure there are in Italy. However, when someone alleges that a libel has occurred in the media, the news outlet will often print a retraction or correction. Why should bloggers be any different? If you want to consider yourself a “journalist” (which is truly laughable) then why should you not shoulder the same responsibilities and obligations that true professional journalists must bear? Why should you not be held to a similar standard?
Cyberspace has unfortunately leveled the playing field in the world of journalism. Professionals are
lowering their standards to pander to the minions and keep up with the fast pace of the dissemination of information, while bloggers have raised themselves to a level they have not earned. As an award-winning journalist I pride myself on my high ethical standard of excellence for not just getting the story but for getting it right. Sadly, the gloves have come off and the professional sheen on the reportage of global affairs has been permanently tarnished. Cyberspace is the new age Tower of Babel and we know that when excessive pride results in obsessive and over-reaching competition among humanity, the ability to communicate is left in ruin.