Support Marketplace

Iceland turns from banks to freedom of speech

An engineer at South Korea's leading anti-virus firm AHNLAB.Com checks the company's systems after the 'SQL Slammer' computer worm attacked internet servers January 27 2003 in Seoul, South Korea. The quickly multiplying worm nearly cut off South Korea's internet access over the weekend. The worm affected systems using Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP.

TEXT OF STORY

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: Iceland has a bold new international money-making plan. But after its last foray into the global marketplace, a financial system that went haywire, should the world be worried?

Marketplace's Stephen Beard reports.


STEPHEN BEARD: Iceland does not intend getting into banking again. Just as well. Those banks wound up owing about ten times more than the whole Icelandic economy. No, the country now wants to turn itself into a haven for the digital age.

BIRGITTA JONSDOTTIR: A haven for freedom of information, freedom of expression and of speech.

Lawmaker Birgitta Jonsdottir.

JONSDOTTIR: What we're doing is putting together all the best laws so that one country can set the standard for how we in the future strengthen these rights.

Iceland wants people from around the world to set up their servers there and publish material online without the fear of ruinous lawsuits or censorship. Icelanders see this as a noble aim and a business opportunity.

SMARI McCARTHY: A lot of companies will just want internet hosting services.

Smari McCarthy is also involved in the project.

McCARTHY: Other organizations might have greater needs such as operating offices from here to protect their employees.

He says the plan could turn Iceland into a refuge for whistle blowers and anyone who wants to expose corporate or official abuses. But Alistair Mullis, Professor of Law at the University of East Anlgia says it'll more likely turn Iceland into a hotbed of libel and intrusiveness.

ALISTAIR MULLIS: It will make it very difficult to sue people who are publishing defamatory material or material that's private when they are based in Iceland.

Another critic claims that Iceland will prove as reckless with reputations and with state secrets as it was with other people's money. But Smari McCarthy says Iceland merely wants to learn and profit from the disaster of its banking boom and bust.

McARTHY: This is a country that was badly burned by a strong urge by those that are in power and those who own everything to keep the general public un-informed about what they are up to.

Iceland's information haven could be up and running in a year. This is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...