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Marketplace Scratch Pad

A license to blog?

Scott Jagow Mar 11, 2009

No matter how bad the economy gets, at least we have the freedom to complain about it. Some Italian lawmakers want to force bloggers to register with the government.

This is part of Italy’s ongoing effort to crack down on the Internet. Last month, the country’s Senate passed a bill that would “block web content that incites or justifies criminal behavior.” This came about because Italian newspapers reported that Facebook was hosting fan sites for two imprisoned Mafia bosses. A spokeswoman for Facebook said the measure was “akin to shutting down the country’s entire railroad network because of some objectionable graffiti in one train station.”

The blogger licensing proposal has been around for a while, but it keeps cropping up. Italian dissident/comedian Beppo Grillo and some of his cohorts are leading the protest against it. They’re asking people around the world to send in photos with the words Free Blogger:

“Two million people are going to be unemployed within just one year in Italy. Yet our very own little Marie Antoniettes, firstly Levi (left wing) then Cassinelli (right wing) then D’Alia (center) now Carlucci (right wing) have nothing better to do than work day and night, PAID FOR BY US, in an attempt to gag the Web.”

Some people call Grillo the “Italian Obama” because of his strong belief in the power of the Internet. Here’s what Grillo said in a TV interview last week:

“Obama is copying me. He is copying all of us. I’m not joking. Obama has risen to stardom thanks to the Web… He is a man of the people and he is financed by the people. His very first speech was posted on Youtube and his support base is the people. It is a down-up, or upside down democracy.”

Grillo seems like an interesting character, maybe more like Italy’s Jon Stewart than its Barack Obama. Speaking of Stewart, CNBC’s Jim Cramer has agreed to go on the Daily Show tomorrow night to have it out with his new rival.

Should be pretty entertaining, and thankfully, I don’t need a license to blog about it.

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