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Italian Internet is stirring?

I’m at the Italian Internet Governance Forum, which, despite its name, is filled with people who favor an open Internet. (It’s also in the oddest venue ever: an abandoned highway tunnel going through a small mountain in Trento. It’s as close to a literal echo chamber as anything I’ve seen.*) The two people I had lunch with gave a more positive view of the Italian Internet than I’ve heard in years.

My lunchtime companions pointed to an increase in Internet uptake in a country that has lagged the rest of Europe. It’s still only at about 50%, but they say the growth line is steep. Social networking has become hugely popular, with 19M Italians on Facebook (about a third of the population). “The Italians have discovered Twitter,” said one of my companions, pointing to its importance in recent political controversies…mainly as a tool of satire and humor.

Just a few years ago, my Italian Internet activist friends were close to despair, so this was very good to hear. Of course the “sample” is tiny and totally non-typical. Still, it should perhaps give us some hope.


*The next day: I learned from my friend Luca de Biase that the tunnel was turned into an exhibition space by my friend and colleague Jeffrey Schnapp! I’m posted separately about it today here.

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