Facebook, Tartaglia, e le minacce del Governo

Nicola Bruno mi ha intervistato ieri per il Manifesto per parlare di Facebook, la censura dei contenuti pubblicati su Internet, e gli eventi di attualita’ politica degli utlimi giorni – l’intervista e’ pubblicata sul Manifesto del 15/12/2009: «Facebook che istiga all’odio? Mi sembra solo un’esagerazione che dimostra una totale mancanza di cultura digitale. Quello che succede online non è altro che la fotocopia della vita politica di un paese. Ci possono essere espressioni forti, ma per lo più più si tratta di semplice condivisione estemporanea di opinioni, come nelle chiacchiere da bar. Non c’è bisogno di nessun oscuramento». […]

New article published: Political Protest Italian Style

The article I co-authored with my colleague Alberto Pepe, from UCLA, has been published in the December Issue of First Monday: “Political protest Italian–style: The blogosphere and mainstream media in the promotion and coverage of Beppe Grillo’s V–day” First Monday, Volume 14, Number 12 – 7 December 2009.

Here is the Abstract:

We analyze the organization, promotion and public perception of “V–day”, a political rally that took place on 8 September 2007, to protest against corruption in the Italian Parliament. Launched by blogger Beppe Grillo, and promoted via a word–of–mouth mobilization on the Italian blogosphere, V–day brought close to one million Italians in the streets on a single day, but was mostly ignored by mainstream media. This article is divided into two parts. In the first part, we analyze the volume and content of online articles published by both bloggers and mainstream news sources from 14 June (the day V–day was announced) until 15 September 2007 (one week after it took place). We find that the success of V–day can be attributed to the coverage of bloggers and small–scale local news outlets only, suggesting a strong grassroots component in the organization of the rally. We also find a dissonant thematic relationship between content published by blogs and mainstream media: while the majority of blogs analyzed promote V–day, major mainstream media sources critique the methods of information production and dissemination employed by Grillo. Based on this finding, in the second part of the study, we explore the role of Grillo in the organization of the rally from a network analysis perspective. We study the interlinking structure of the V–day blogosphere network, to determine its structure, its levels of heterogeneity, and resilience. Our analysis contradicts the hypothesis that Grillo served as a top–down, broadcast–like source of information. Rather, we find that information about V–day was transferred across heterogeneous nodes in a moderately robust and resilient core network of blogs. We speculate that the organization of V–day represents the very first case, in Italian history, of a political demonstration developed and promoted primarily via the use of social media on the Web.

beppe grillo enters italian politics

Comedian/blogger Beppe Grillo has announced today on his blog that he wil be entering Italian politics by running to become a candidate of the Left wing party Partito Democratico. His decision has startled many, given his views and actions, which have often been labeled as ‘anti-politics’, causing a wide array of reactions from his supporters (as of today his blog post has gathered more than 2,300 comments) and politicians. Amongst the issues he wants to tackle on his political agenda, free information, free wi-fi, and his now famous ‘clean parliament’ campaign.

Italy as seen by the Italian blogosphere

Vittorio Zambardino writes today in La Repubblica about a recent research study carried out on the Italian blogosphere: what are Italian bloggers writing about? The article presents very interesting graphs, which show the top tags used in 2009 and the topics Italian bloggers write about.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the top tag in 2009 was Silvio Berlusconi, which is followed by two current affairs related tags: the economic crisis and the Abruzzo earthquake – which are followed by Facebook in fourth place. In the top 15 most used tags we also find two football teams, Inter Milan and AC Milan, president Obama and the Pope.

Amongst the most discussed topics we find: 1) current affairs 2) soccer 3) the Internet 4) sport 5) politics. These are followed by a rather detailed list of less discussed topics from cinema, to art, to cooking, to music and so on. Finding current affairs at first place and politics at 5th place was indeed rather reassuring, supporting the idea that the Internet is indeed used as a virtual agora for discussion or a virtual civil society, rather than merely a tool for entertainment purposes. It should be noticed, however, that Maria de Filippi (TV presenter of Mediaset reality TV shows) was the top tag in the ‘entertainment category’, where we can find blogger Beppe Grillo at 4th place, and journalists Marco Travaglio and Michele Santoro further down in the list. Finally, finding the Internet as third most discussed topic, was also unsurprising – this is a common finding from research of different country/language blogospheres, where a big proportion of bloggers is made up by IT/media enthusiasts who blog about the medium they are using for communication (see for example our research on different language blogospheres from the Berkman’s Internet and Democracy project).

While the methodology used for this study is not illustrated in this article, it certainly provides a really good snapshot of what the online community and bloggers are talking about: this is very informative of what is going on in Italian society – and should be compared to the news agenda of mainstream media, in order to establish the role of the Internet in public discourse.

E tu, non provi Herdict?

[youtube width=”315″ height=”235″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4omD0j_e0k[/youtube]

La Pecora Bianca presenta Herdict, uno straordinario nuovo sito che aiuta gli utenti a riprendere controllo della Rete. Hai problemi con siti in parte o del tutto inaccessibili? Prova ad usare Herdict su: http://herdict.org.

Herdict.org e’ un progetto del Berkman Center for Internet & Society, all’Universita’ di Harvard, ideato da Jonathan Zittrain e dalla OpenNet Initiative (ONI) che permette agli utenti di Internet di tutto il mondo di raccogliere e condividere segnalazioni di malfunzionamenti e blocchi volontari di diversi siti o pagine Web. Per ulteriori informazioni, leggi: “Herdict, la Mappa Mondiale della Censura“.

Internet censorship arrives in Italy

[youtube width=”315″ height=”235″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLsyLEwIFVc[/youtube]

In an effort to regulate the Internet, as part of a package of laws to safeguard national security, the Italian Government has recently proposed an amendment which in practice – if approved – would oblige all Italian ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to block a site (be this a website, a blog or a social media site such as Facebook or Youtube) where material has been posted which is believed to defend or instigate a crime [Bloomberg’s reporting the news here].

This amendment does not talk about merely deleting the material which is believed to be criminal/illegal but about filtering/blocking/blacking out/preventing access to the entire website if the manager of the site did not take down such material. For example, if Facebook did not shut down groups such as the ones which have recently come to the spotlight for praising Mafia bosses, Italian ISPs would be in fact obliged to block access to the whole of Facebook, or be fined (from 50,000 to 250,000 Euros).

The decision of whether such material is in fact illegal would not go to the Courts of Law but would be taken directly by the Minister of the Interior, with no opportunity for trial in front of Magistrates. The amendment has already been approved by the Senate and is waiting to be discussed at the Chamber of Deputies.

Commentators from blogger Beppe Grillo to Italian politician Antonio di Pietro have voiced their protests against this amendment which – if it becomes law – would in fact curtail freedom of expression — and potentially allow the shutting down of thousands of voices on the Web. According to di Pietro [English version here] the amendment is unconstitutional and anti-democratic thereby putting Italy in the same situation of countries such as China and Burma where Internet filtering is widespread. In his blog Beppe Grillo reports an interview with Senator D’Alia [English version here] where the Senator explains how the amendment would in fact work.

A group has been created on Facebook against this amendment – where materials such as editorials and comments can be found – for more information see also: http://www.baoad.it/facebook-censored/.

understanding the Internet: Italian politicians go online

More and more Italian politicians have been jumping on the Internet bandwagon. The Education Minister Mariarosa Gelmini has started a YouTube channel, where she announces with a video that she hopes this channel will allow her to listen to people’s opinion, in order to “implement change together”. The video has reached 260,000 views since it was posted a week ago, and 8,000 comments. A few days ago, Renato Brunetta, the Minister for Public Administration and Innovation, has opened a Facebook page, gathering around 14,000 supporters and around 1,200 wall posts/comments. He also posts a video, in which he states that this is his first effort to reach people online, so that they can contact him with their views, and he hopes in this way he will also be able to keep them posted about his initiatives and activities. Continue reading “understanding the Internet: Italian politicians go online”

Internet access in Italy remains low: choice or constraints?

A report published yesterday by Eurostat on Internet use and access in the 27 European member states, Norway, Iceland and Croatia, shows that Internet access in Italian households has remained stable at 42% in the last three years (it was 40% in 2006 and 43% in 2007) compared to the European average of 60%. This figure places Italy amongst the four countries with the lowest rates of Internet access in Europe, only followed by Greece (31%), Romania (30%) and Bulgaria (25%), which have all experienced a big growth since their very low levels of 2006. The percentage of Italian households with a broadband connection, on the other hand, has grown from 16% in 2006, to 25% in 2007 and 31% in 2008 – which, however, is low compared to the EU average of 48%, and again is only higher than the percentage in Bulgaria (21%), Greece (22%) and Romania (13%).

What are the reasons which keep Italians from going online? Continue reading “Internet access in Italy remains low: choice or constraints?”

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