Saturday, October 28, 2006

Outrage in the Greek blogosphere

The Greek blogosphere is all aflutter about an incident involving the administrator/owner of a Greek blog search engine, I have the disadvantage of reading the Greek accounts of what exactly has happened, but there are accounts in English here, here, and here. Now, if we are to take this news at face value, ie. that the administrator of the site had his house searched, his computer seized, and was placed in detention due to a link to a blog that allegedly posted a slanderous post about a Greek public figure, then there are a few things that are problematic with the system here in Greece.

Search and seizure is a pretty major operation for a simple slander case. I highly doubt there is a judge in America that would sign a warrant for this type of action under such circumstances. Most slander cases begin with paperwork from lawyers. Now, if the crime committed here is merely slander, and the public figure has such pull that he can request a judge sign a warrant for search and seizure not of the offending blog writer but the administrator of a site that links to the allegedly slanderous post – then obviously Greece isn’t getting very far in correcting the whole misuse of justice issue. I also realize that the search and seizure of the administrator’s home could also be from a general ignorance of how the internet works on the part of government and law enforcement officials. And they wonder why more people in Greece don’t use computers. Huh.

Slander is a pretty hard thing to prove, even in the good ol’ overly litigious US of A. Generally speaking, you have to prove that it is something that can be reasonably believed – ie., if you post that “so and so has sex with fuschia elephants”, then no one can reasonably believe that to be true, because there are no fuschia elephants. However, publications that publish allegedly slanderous material can be cited along with the writers, and this is where it gets interesting. Internet law is still such a wasteland there hasn’t been a ton of precedent. Does the mere posting of a link to a slanderous article make someone liable? Or do you have to post something along the lines of “hey, read this true article about so and so posted at this link”. I don’t know what the laws are regarding slander are here in Greece, but if they are worded in such a way that allows the administrator of an automated aggregator of blogs to be liable, then there is a big problem here.

Now, I say all this with a degree of caution because, like I said before, I don’t have all the facts of the case. There may be a lot more to this story, which may or may not have made the actions of law enforcement justifiable. If the laws of Greece make such actions justifiable under the simple claim of slander, then these laws need to be rewritten, and fast, otherwise Greece is going to fall on a downward spiral that limits freedom of speech, which isn’t quite appropriate for an EU country.

UPDATE: There is a listing of all blogs posting about this issue at magicasland, and a post at CNET about it. Thanks to DeviousDiva for those links, and for reminding me that a UN summit about the future of the Internet is being held in Athens starting this weekend.

UPDATE #2: has the skinny on the people involved in this case. I didn't even know Greece had any televangelists!

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