There is some controversy going on in Greece about the anonymity of bloggers. I noticed it first in the local newspaper Nea Kriti which ran an article under the title “Βάζει φρένο …” which is translated by Google as “It puts a damper..”. Since, as usual, I couldn’t make sense of the automatic Google translation I went looking for other sources, the usual suspects being ERT, eKathemerini and Athens News. Athens News hasn’t reported it yet but they lag behind one week with their online edition. ERT had the following to say (notice again the revealing headline):
On Administrators’ Electronic Traces
26 Feb 2008 12:51:00 – (Last updated: 27 Feb 2008 12:43:43)
At least five persons appear to be the administrators of blogpress-gr.blogsport.com, which as per lawsuits filed they posted slanderous comments, followed by blackmailing calls and e-mails. Due to charges related to felony and blackmail, confidentiality has been lifted and thus the Electronic Crime Bureau is on the five administrators’ electronic traces. Journalist Vasilis Chiotis had filed a lawsuit on felony and defamation of character one year ago. Over 100 lawsuits have been filed since the case was made public. In an interview with NET 105.8, ISTAME (Institute of Strategic and Development Studies) President Nikos Kotzias argued that the last time the specific blog had insulted him was one day before he was checked. To Vima newspaper, where Mr Chiotis works as an editor carries the blog’s posted material that concern him and the others. It also carries two e-mails through which unknown senders had asked 30,000 euros from him in order to stop publicizing the comments. Ministers George Alogoskoufis and George Voulgarakis, MPs, businessmen, hierarchs journalists and lawyers have also filed lawsuits.
One of the five persons considered to be the administrators of the blog is head editor of Kosmos tou Ependyti newspaper Andreas Kapsampelis, who lost his post when it was revealed that he had been involved in the case. In his answer on the blog, Mr Kapsampelis reports that he is a blogger and not a criminal, rejecting any charges filed against him on blackmail.
Three more journalists or politicians appear to be Kapsampelis’ co-bloggers, while at least one publication appears to have been sent by a computer in the Parliament. Referring to the issue, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos stated that the authorities are cooperating on an international basis, adding that anonymity on the Internet is in force worldwide. However, he stressed that the posted material should not be insulting. In parallel, he said that a bill on the free circulation of ideas on the Internet, incorporating the EU relevant directives will be tabled at Parliament in 2008. Referring to the case today, Transport and Communications Minister Kostis Hatzidakis stated that blogs should not carry defamatory material.
From its side, SYN (Coalition of the Left) issued an announcement as per which the government is trying to introduce a new measure that will lead to censorship on the excuse of combating blackmail.
As per information, brief on the administrators of the blog will also concern the controversial DVD on the Zahopoulos case.
You’ll notice that they can’t get the domain name right. What is meant of course is blogspot.com, a blog hosting service by Google. What’s more, they have the complete URL wrong. The blog in question is press-gr.blogspot.com. I guess it was too difficult to check that URL before publishing the article. For good measure they also throw in the other sensation of the time of the year, the Zachopoulos case. So far for professional journalism. But it gets better… Hereafter is the news item from eKathemerini:
House link in blogspot probe
Authorities are broadening their investigation into the press-gr news blog after indications the site was being supplied with information from someone using a computer inside Parliament. Authorities are continuing to look into the blog spot after journalist Andreas Kapsampelis, who reportedly ran it, was charged on Monday with blackmail and libel.
Sources said Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis, Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos are among 100 plaintiffs to have filed a lawsuit against the blogspot in the last 16 months.
Google, which hosts the electronic address, has agreed to help Greek authorities with investigation efforts aimed at uncovering suspects who allegedly demanded amounts of up to 20,000 euros from their victims in order not to publish articles about them. The self-styled citizens’ news site hosts a regular mix of comments on Greek politics and society from users who are frequently anonymous and often resort to abusive language.
The case was raised in Parliament on Monday when Alogoskoufis said the opposition had regularly tapped the site for dirt on the government. “Many of the anonymous accusations adopted by members of the opposition are identical to the ones posted on (this) libelous website,” he said. One of the comments was found to have been posted on the blog from a computer belonging to Parliament’s network, the police said.
“Authorities are continuing to look into the blog spot”. Yeah, right. Let them look closely into the blog spot. Hey, who knows, maybe this is something like an as-yet-uncovered G spot? That’ll increase our readership! In the next paragraph everybody files a lawsuit against “the blogspot”. Firm and decisive. That’ll shut them up! We can’t have no blogspot around here! But at least they found out that Google is behind it, hosting the “electronic address”. Who are these people that write such things? Is this week the first they encounter the blogging phenomenon? The sensationalist style goes on: “who reportedly ran it”. Fercryinoutloud, the guy has his name all over the place. Many others posting on the weblog do this also under their full name. Reportedly? Is this supposed to impress us with the serious investigative reporting done by these “professionals”?
So, what do we have here? The main administrator of the weblog is charged with blackmail and libel. There seem to be a lot of anonymous commenters, like on every blog. Big deal! Google is going to assist the authorities at uncovering suspects who allegedly demand amounts of up to 20,000 euros. Good luck with that.
In short, if I start sending out anonymous letters threatening to publish dirt on anyone in a respected “professional” newspaper, they are going to sue the owner or the editor of the newspaper?
This whole affair reminds me of the story of a Swedish computer consultant in Chania, Crete, who was charged in 2005 with advertising and selling drugs based on the fact that 3 people started receiving spam messages promoting these drugs soon after meeting and shaking hands with him! See also here and here.
Greece, my love, if only I could wake you up with a kiss!