Italian Internet rules prompt protests

Google rep seeks meeting with government

Google’s clash over censorship in China is being echoed by similar concerns in Italy, where the Web giant has announced it will counter regulations being drafted by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government that would police content on Google-owned YouTube.

The Internet measures are contained in a radical package of TV legislation now being pushed through parliament. The sweeping bills are also drawing fire from TV and film industry workers, who have called a national strike today to protest against other aspects of the package, including the elimination of quotas that support local indie productions.

Google’s European public policy counsel, Marco Pancini, has requested an urgent meeting with Paolo Romani, the communications undersecretary who drafted the decree designed to give the government control over video content uploaded onto the Internet, similar to the authority it already has over broadcasters.

We are concerned over the fact that Internet service providers, like YouTube, that simply make content available to the general public, are being bundled together with traditional television networks that actually manage content,” Pancini told paper La Stampa. “It amounts to destroying the entire Internet system.”

Pancini said Google will take action with the European Union if the legislation is approved by Italy’s conservative government.

Romani has defended the decree, claiming the bill would enact European media rules, a contention strongly challenged by the country’s center-left opposition.

Italy is joining the club of censors, together with China, Iran and North Korea,” complained former Democratic Party senator Vincenzo Vita, a former communications ministry undersecretary.

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