Deadline: tomorrow! Help meet our fall fundraising goal GIVE NOW

Iceland turns from banks to freedom of speech

Stephen Beard Oct 25, 2010
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Iceland turns from banks to freedom of speech

Stephen Beard Oct 25, 2010
HTML EMBED:
COPY

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.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.