Hugo Chávez is taking his previous war cries against social media one step further; the Venezuelan president is now calling for regulation of the Internet itself.
Comments were posted on Venezuelan web site Noticiero Digital on the weekend suggested Diosdado Cabello, a senior minister and close aide to the president, had been assassinated.
The site, popular with Chávez’s opponents, took down the comments only hours later, according to the Associated Press. Reuters reports Chávez saying the comments remained posted for two days.
Noticiero Digital has banned the users responsible from the site. However, Chávez is not appeased.
“The Internet cannot be something open where anything is said and done. Every country has to apply its own rules and norms,” Chávez said (as reported by Reuters).
“We have to act. We are going to ask the attorney general for help, because this is a crime. I have information that this page periodically publishes stories calling for a coup d’etat. That cannot be permitted.”
It seems that Venezuela under Chávez is moving ever-closer to the sort of Internet restrictions operated in countries like Iran, Cuba and China.
What I have to wonder though is this:
If every false piece of information published on the Internet were to result in regulation of the Internet, there would certainly be no World Wide Web left. If every news site on the web to ever make a mistake and publish online something that happened to be wrong were to be shut down, then I suppose print newspaper circulation would not be in such a decline.
That’s not to say that I think that journalists, for example, should publish now, fact check and correct later. I think that everything published online should strive for every bit of truthfulness that is the standard of print publications. That being said, everyone makes mistakes, and it can be especially difficult to moderate material posted to a site, especially when your policy is to avoid censorship.
Many critics suggest that Chávez’s harsh reaction is due to the amount of criticism he receives via the Internet. Since the website has made absolutely clear that their policy states users must be liable for comments they publish on the site, and has not only removed the offending comments, but also banned their authors, you would think Chávez could let it go. However, I think his behaviour may suggest he is merely using the incident as an excuse to unleash his plan to regulate the Internet.
I think that if the Internet was a fundamental human right, Chávez would certainly be halted in his tracks. However, since it isn’t, do you think he will be successful in his plans to regulate it?