Luther Blissett on Thu, 26 Mar 1998 16:14:45 +0100 (MET)

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<nettime> Italian netizens are in danger



0. Premise
1. What Is The Musti Affair?
2. The assault on Internet service providers
3. We Need International Solidarity

0. Premise

Something serious is happening in Italy. A crackdown recently started in
Bologna  is going to threaten freedom of speech for Italian netizens. The
so-called Musti affair, which we'll sum up in the next paragraph, is a
pretext to create a legal precedent, foster (self-)censorship and possibly
enforce the (remarkably restrictive) law on the press in the Italian

1. What Is The Musti Affair?

Lucia Musti, vice-District Attorney in Bologna and former Public Prosecutor
in a famous trial against an innocuous cult called 'Bambini di Satana'
[Children of Satan], sued a 'traditional' publisher (Castelvecchi Edizioni,
based in Rome) and two Internet service providers (Cybercore, based in
Bologna, and 2mila8, based in L'Aquila) for having published or put into
electronic circulation Luther Blissett's book 'Lasciate che i bimbi.
"Pedofilia": un pretesto per la caccia alle streghe' (Let The Children...
"Pedophilia" as A Pretext for A Witch Hunt]. The book is anti-copyright,
thereby it is also freely available on the Web. Lucia Musti wants the book
to be banned, all the copies to be destroyed and its electronic versions to
be removed from the indicted servers. Moreover, she claims moral damages
for 450 million lire (approximately $300,000). She asked the competent
magistrate to sequestrate Castelvecchi's accounts and contracts (officially
in order to know how many copies were put into circulation - more likely
she wants to find out the real names of the authors). The first session of
the trial will take place on the 5th of May at the Tribunal of Bologna.
According to Musti, the book's content is 'insulting', 'slanderous' and
'prejudicial' to her reputation and identity. The charge is 'Misuse of the
right of criticism'. Why?
The first chapter of Blissett's book consists of a scrupulous account of
the BDS trial. In 1996 the three defendants (the cult leader Marco Dimitri
and his fellows Piergiorgio Bonora and Gennaro Luongo) were arrested and
charged with child rape, satanic ritual abuse and even human sacrifice.
There were no corpses, no reliable witness, no evidence at all whatsoever.
The defendants went through a long, groundless detention before being taken
to court. The media upheld their guilt, fostered moral panic and described
them as little more than bloodsucking monsters. Eventually they were
acquitted, but their life was destroyed.
Soon after the arrest the Luther Blissett Project launched a campaign of
counter-information and challenged the investigating authorities, whose
Jeanne d'Arc-like commander was Lucia Musti. The LBP exposed her lies, her
staunch clericalism and the ambiguous role played by the Curia of Bologna
[local ecclesiastic authority] through a group of bigots named GRIS [Group
for Research and Information on Cults]. Combining media hoaxes, private
investigations and a meticulous deconstruction of Musti's propaganda, the
LBP helped to free Dimitri and the other guys. Some newspapers (e.g. La
Repubblica) were greatly influenced by Blissett's campaign, and explicitly
censured Musti's behaviour and fanaticism.
According to the LBP the 'Children of Satan' were scapegoats, and that
trial was a manifestation of the sexuophobic/homophobic/obscurantist
euro-paranoia about pedophilia, ritual abuse and kiddy porn on the
Internet. The first chapter of 'Lasciate che i bimbi', which is far from
having a slanderous content,  tells the whole story from the arrest to the
acquittal, exposing the ways Musti took advantage of her position in order
to manipulate the public opinion and persecute innocent people. After
having ruinously lost the trial, she even wanted to avoid the consequences
on her reputation!

2. The Assault On Internet Service Providers

Musti's 'Atto di Citazione' [certificate of action at law] is a violent
assault on the Internet providers whose servers hosted the electronic text
of the book. The target is the Internet, its "difference", the features
that make it uncomparable to the traditional media, i.e. the horizontality
which has granted freedom of speech for those who have no access to the old
media and the trans-nationality which has made a lot of wanna-be censors
The Italian legislation on the Internet is full of blanks, this is the
state's chance to fill them, set a dangerous precedent and force providers
and netizens to self-censorship. If Musti wins the trial, the Italian Net
landscape will be impoverished if not ravaged, with serious repercussions
all over Europe and the world.
Here's some translated excerpts from the abovementioned Atto di Citazione,
dated February 11th, 1998:

'[In Italy] the responsibility of providers for torts committed via the
telematic nets is currently the subject of a lively debate. Two fronts
oppose each other: one considers providers equal to publishers, thus
responsible [for the contents], the other considers them equal to
booksellers and newsvendors, thus non-responsible.
We think that  the 11th article of the law on the press - which is about
the common responsibility of the publisher, the owner of the publication
and the author - is extensible (at least by analogy) to [Internet] service
providers. Although the mentioned law is enforced for "all typographical
reproduction, obtained by any mechanical or physio-chemical means, anyhow
aimed at publication", we must remember that, despite the wonderful terms
currently used to describe the information highways, the material which is
put on the Internet is not destined to stay in a virtual world of
immaterial communication, indeed, it can be easily fixed on such material
supports as computer hard disks or diskettes, as well as reproducible by
such mechanical means as printers.'

'However, the responsibility of providers can also be demonstrated
according to the article 2050 of the Civil Code [which is about
responsibility for dangerous activities]. In fact, this rule is enforced
not only for the activities regarded as dangerous according to the law on
Public Security and other special laws, but also to all the activities
which, to the opinion of the competent judge, can intrinsicly be harmful,
even if they are as much licit as useful for society.'

'In the case the competent justice decides there are no premises for the
enforcement of  the article 2050, we can take into consideration the
article 2051 [which is about damages caused by things kept in custody],
because it is undeniable that A) [providers] have a direct, concrete power
on the sites running on their servers, B) [the sued providers] were aware
that the contents of Blissett's text were prejudicial to other people's
reputation, and could have easily removed them from the sites [...]'

3. We Need International Solidarity

This struggle has an immediate political value, every Italian provider has
to take part in the general mobilization. Besides setting limits to freedom
of speech, this precedent will extend their legal liability.
The Net is an organism that can defend herself. Her immunity systems are
electronic civil disobedience, the netizens' quick reflexes and the almost
instinctive solidarity that doesn't leave abuses unpunished. Musti has made
a big mistake taking offence at the Italian Web. We have suggested anyone
who runs a site or a server to create pages dedicated to this crackdown, by
mirroring (or re-designing)  'Lasciate che i bimbi', and loading the text
you are reading. International solidarity is indispensable. We've just
started to get media coverage and organise events, while other people are
putting the incriminated book on their sites. We' ll constantly update the
list and sent it to all the concerned netizens, along with all the material
we'll be able to translate into English.
We also call on every enemy of obscurantism, repression and censorship to
take the field and make a protest against this crackdown, by sending e-mail
to Italian newspapers.

Luther Blissett Project, Bologna, last week of March 1998

'Lasciate che i bimbi' is already available at:
Add your site to this list!
An English translation of the book's introduction is at:
The complete files on the Italian crackdown (Italian language) are at:
Luther Blissett Project - Detailed info, no frills:

The Italian media:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

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