We have been discussing the crackdown on “fake news,” including my view that this has become the latest rationale for various countries to rollback on free speech. Now Italy has has joined this ignoble list of Western countries using the ill-defined problem of “fake news” to justify the criminalization of speech and regulation of the Internet. Giovanni Pitruzzella, head of the Italian Competition Authority (an anti-trust body), has called for a crackdown by the European Union.
Pitruzzella uses the catchy new phrase of “post-truth” to explain why the West needs to curtail free speech: “Post-truth in politics is one of the drivers of populism and it is one of the threats to our democracies.” It is a telling connection draw by Pitruzzella between that pesky rise of “populism” and the need to criminalize speech. He insists “We have reached a fork in the road: we have to choose whether to leave the internet like it is, the wild west, or whether it needs rules that appreciate the way communication has changed. I think we need to set those rules and this is the role of the public sector.”
It is sad to hear a lawyer and law professor calling for such a curtailment of free speech, but the appeal of such regulation of speech can be irresistible — particularly when people fear the direction of popular movements. Pitruzzella is a full professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Palermo and has been the Chairman of the Italian Competition Authority since November 2011.
We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in France (here and here and here and here and here and here) and England ( here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). Much of this trend is tied to the expansion of hate speech and non-discrimination laws. We have seen comedians targeted with such court orders under this expanding and worrisome trend. (here and here).
Those figures who have long fought to curtail free speech may have found the perfect vehicle to convince citizens to voluntarily surrender their right to free speech, even celebrate its passing. It is all being done in the name of “truth”, which apparently can only be found on the other side of the criminalization of speech. People like Pitruzzella would give the government the power to decide on what is truth in this “post-truth” world — a dangerous proposition.