Our new paper: “Reconfiguring Friendships: Social Relationships and the Internet”, co-authored with Professor Bill Dutton of the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) at the University of Oxford, is now available in the new special issue of Information, Communication and Society (Vol. 10, Issue 5) on e-Relationships.
In this paper we investigate whether and how social relationships are formed online and what are the socio-demographic and other determinants of social relationship formation. We also explore whether and under what circumstances friends that are met online become offline friends. The paper uses data from the 2005 Oxford Internet Survey (OxIS) and the World Internet Project. We found that while socio-demographic factors are in general poor predictors of both making friends online and of meeting online friends in offline settings, the channels of communication used online (for example chatting vs. blogging) and what Internet users do online (for example whether they use the Internet for entertainment vs. communication) have an effect on the development of online friendships.
The Italian Government has recently proposed a draft law aimed at reorganising the legislation of the publishing sector, which requires every citizen engaging in publishing and editorial activities to register them with a central registry. This law covers different media, including the Internet, in practice requiring every Internet user who posts information online (thus carrying out “publishing and editorial activity”) to register their blogs and websites with such a registry. This law would in fact identify bloggers as professional publishers/journalists – thus, bloggers who fail to register would in theory be liable to incur into heavy penalties such as for example defamation.
As news of the draft law have started to circulate, thousands of angry reactions have been flooding into two of the most popular Italian blogs: Beppe Grillo’s blog and Minister Antonio Di Pietro’s blog (one of the first and most active politician bloggers) protesting that the passing of such a law, far from being a mere bureaucratic formality, would in fact mean the end of the free Internet in Italy. Government officials have clarified that such a law would not apply to personal blogs and amateur sites, but no clear guidelines have been stated so far to qualify what counts as a personal vs. professional blog.
The original text of the draft law can be found here [Italian only].
Update: Minister of Communications Paolo Gentiloni on his blog has just commented on the draft law stating that the law should not apply to blogs and personal websites, but only to online professional publishers, such as big online newspapers. This draft law will have to be discussed in Parliament and several parties, from the Greens to Di Pietro’s Italia dei Valori party, have promised to oppose such a law.