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 Italy moves to impose Internet regulation

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Date posted: 23/01/2010

Silvio Berlusconi is moving to extend his grip on Italy's media to the freewheeling Internet world of Google and YouTube.

Going beyond other European countries, the premier's government has drafted a decree that would mandate the vetting of videos for pornographic or violent content uploaded by users onto such sites as YouTube, owned by Google, and the France-based Dailymotion, as well as blogs and online newsmedia.

Google, press freedom watchdogs and telecom providers are among those pressing for changes in the draft to prevent the fast-track legislation from taking effect as early as Feb. 4. They say the decree would erode freedom of expression and mandate the technically burdensome - maybe even impossible - task of monitoring what individuals put on the Internet.

Reporters Without Borders Media says the measures could force Web sites to obtain licenses to operate in Italy.

The 34-page decree mandates vetting of any content harmful to minors, specifically pornography or excessive violence, and would require telecoms providers to shut down any Internet site not in compliance, or face fines ranging from euro150 to euro150,000 ($210 to $210,960).

The draft says it would be handled by "an authority," without elaborating, raising questions about among media freedom advocates about how it could be implemented.

Reporters Without Borders said in a statement this week that the draft proposal as written "pose yet another threat to freedom of expression in Italy."

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