Italian parliament drafts a declaration of Internet rights

The Italian parliament wants to have its say in the creation of an international legal framework promoting freedom, equality and access to cyberspace for all, and on Tuesday it presented a Declaration of Internet Rights that it will bring to the Internet Governance Forum in Brazil in November.

“This is the first time that a parliament produces a declaration on Internet rights of constitutional inspiration and international scope,” Laura Boldrini, the speaker of the lower house of parliament and a major backer of the project, told a press conference in Rome. Boldrini said she hoped parliament would pass a motion calling on the Italian government to promote the document in national and international forums. The document was drawn up by a commission headed by Stefano Rodotà, a former politician and jurist.

A laggard in Internet infrastructure and usage compared to its European neighbors, Italy is proving to be ambitious when it comes to drawing up the rules.

The documents calls Internet access “a fundamental right of the person and a condition for his/her full individual and social development”. It calls on public institutions to remove technological and economic obstacles to access and to ensure that vulnerable and disabled people have equal Internet opportunities.

Net neutrality, privacy, security and the right to be forgotten are all tackled by the Declaration. It authorizes anonymous use of the Internet, in particular to guarantee civil and political liberties without the risk of discrimination or censorship. The only limitations on this right must be justified by an important public interest and must be “necessary, proportionate, founded on the law and respectful of the characteristics of a democratic society”.

The commission supports the individual’s right to seek the cancellation from search engines of erroneous or outdated information. It said the right should also apply to public figures, but only when the information has no bearing on their public role. When a request for the removal of information has been granted, anyone should have the right to a judicial appeal against the decision “to guarantee the public interest in the information.”

In a sign of the sometimes utopian nature of the document, one article declares: “Limitations are not admitted on the freedom to express thought.” But it immediately adds: “Protection of the dignity of the person against abuses connected to the incitement to hatred, to discrimination and to violence must be guaranteed.”

“The work of the commission was intense and demanding and the Declaration represents a first step in the direction of a new era for online rights,” said Diego De Lorenzis, a lawmaker from the Five Star Movement, which has pioneered the use of Internet in the political sphere.

Scorza was also emphatic that Italy’s Magna Carta of Cyberspace constituted a message of hope, “inviting the belief that our country still has something to say at a global level when people talk of web, digital and future”.

Online commentators on the Corriere della Sera website were less enthusiastic, slamming the Internet charter as a costly exercise in banality.

The predominantly critical comments were subsequently removed.