Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Freedom of speech on the net

The Athens electronic crime units gets a hot tip in the Blogme case

It seems that the Blogme case has lit up the Greek blogosphere like a Christmas tree on steroids. The news the Antonis Tsiropoulos, the site administrator was arrested and charged with God knows what law for linking to a site that satirising the ultra - nationalist nutcase, Dimothenes Liakopulos has deeply angered the blogging community here. Coming at the same time as the Internet Governance Forum in Greeece, it graphically shows that despite words to the contrary, The Greek authorities are ready to use authoritarian tactics to deal with what they either cannot understand or find suspicious.

While looking at other blogs talking about the Blogme case I've come across a whole series of cases of the police raiding internet user's home and confiscating their equipment on the flimsiest of excuses. Take for example the case of Dimitis Fotiou, an Athenian sculptor, who set up a mock site which supposedly allowed people to find "help" i.e. get in contact with those in power who could pull strings ("rousfeti", in Greek) so that they could get a place in the civil service.

His sense of irony was apparently lost on the police who arrested him, confiscated his equipment and held him in custody for three days. Read here and here what another bloggers say about the case. Unfortunately, as the court case is pending, Dimtrios cannot speak on his own behalf. Given such attitudes it's hardly surprising that Reporter without Borders ranked Greece 32 (out of 168) in terms of freedom of the press.

Or there is the case of Rick Downes, a Swedish programmer arrested in Hania, Crete charged with illegally selling pharmaceuticals on the net and spamming (see here).

"Downes strongly denies the accusations and maintains there is nothing to link him with the spam messages. He said his knowledge of computers was taken as suspicious by investigators who knew nothing about technology.

We tried to explain to the police that what most likely happened is that the travel agent's computer is compromised and that her address book (including the addresses of her two friends who've met Rick) has been harvested for use by spammers, but they did not understand this. They were very unsophisticated in terms of computers and seemed to believe spammers met people and collected email addresses one by one," Phillips said."

Time and time the police's answer is to arrest and intimidate, irrespective of whether or not they have the slightest clue what it is the "offending" internet user has done.

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