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Berlusconi's supporters blame Facebook for freak attack


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A good time to limit free speech


Following a freak attack against Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, members of the Italian ruling coalition have pointed the finger at social networking sites.

Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni announced he is considering limiting freedom of expression in an attempt to crack down on sites that instigate violence against the PM. Maroni blamed the attack on a hate campaign launched against Berlusconi on social networking sites, adding that uncensored web access could result in "a dangerous spiral of emulation."

However, Berlusconi's opponents and advocates of free speech warn that the internet is one of few Italian media outlets not under Berlusconi's control. Italy has some of the most stringent laws governing online publications and requires bloggers to register as newspapers. Andrea Monti, a lawyer and avid advocate of freedom of speech claims the government already tried to tighten online censorship on several occasions. 

“It has happened before. When something bad happens, the authorities' first reaction is to tighten the grip on online censorship,” said Monti.

Berlusconi was attacked by Massimo Tartaglia, a 42-year-old with a history of psychological problems. Tartaglia hurled a statuette of Milan's Duomo cathedral at Berlusconi, breaking his nose and a couple of teeth. In a related story, the statuette has all but outsold in Italy, and seems to have become a very popular Christmas gift.

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