Aides Blame Facebook for Berlusconi Attack
Italy plans crackdown on social networking sites
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 16, 2009 5:20 AM CST
Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi sits in his vehicle after an attacker hit him in the face at a rally Sunday night.   (AP Photo/RAI TG3 via APTN)

(Newser) – The attack on Silvio Berlusconi will likely deal a blow to freedom of speech in Italy. Members of his government have publicly blamed social networking sites—where anti-Berlusconi pages have proliferated—for the assault. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni has announced plans for a crackdown, saying that the Internet could spawn "a dangerous spiral of emulation" unless censorship is initiated.

Freedom of speech is already seen as relatively weak in Italy, with Berlusconi exerting control over most forms of media; Internet users are subject to many restrictions, including having to show ID at Internet cafes. "I can't imagine how Maroni can further reduce the freedom of expression online, given how bad the situation really is," a lawyer who heads a group advocating freedom of expression online tells the Christian Science Monitor.