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Side Swipe at Facebook

Facebook remains as popular as ever here in Italy, much to the chagrin of Italy’s powers that be. Hence indirect an attempt to steer Italians away from social networking sites, such as Facebook.

Whereas here in Italy friendly editors, chat show hosts, and the odd newscaster or two can be persuaded to cast certain things in a specific light, it is darn difficult to control what goes on within the virtual corridors of Facebook.  This, for some, is a huge problem.

Many, many, Italians use Facebook, as has been noted elsewhere on BlogfromItaly, and now, Italy’s younger generations seem to be taking to it in droves.  Whilst buzzing around Milan on the bus, I often overhear groups of Italian teenagers chatting away, and you can bet your bottom dollar that Facebook will be mentioned sooner or later.

This new found communicative freedom in Italy’s young has not escaped the notice of Italy’s masters.  Oh no.  Hence a clever, and rather farsighted, swipe at everybody’s favourite social network.

Facebook is Paedophile Paradise

A recent item on the evening news in Italy; I forget which channel, but most probably either RAI 1 or RAI 2; insinuated that social networks are veritably infested with paedophiles.  Facebook was not mentioned by name, but an image of a page from a sexual predator infested social networking site had clearly been taken from Facebook.

Targeting Future Generations

Having failed to steer today’s generations away from Facebook and the like, those in ivory towers seem to be aiming at future generations.  With a little luck, the scare mongering may even convince a few parents with teenage children to tell their kids to cancel their Facebook profiles -just in case.

Paedophile Facts

I had a look at a report by Meter, an Italian association which monitors paedophile activity online.  The figures do not really indicate that Social Networks are ‘infested’.

In 2009, there were 7,240 indications from the public around the world of possible paedophile activity on the world wide web.  851 of these indications came via people registered with social networks.  Fifty one of these came from Italians registered with social networks.  Now, this is not 51 in 2009, but 51 between 2003 and 2009.  Infestation?

Or the use of rather common ploy in Italy.

A Traditional Italian Mud Slinging Tactic

Indirect, but devious, attempts to discredit people are not infrequent in Italy.  The mafia, as Roberto Saviano, knows very well, is expert at blackening names.  As with certain other powerful figures in Italy, the mafia also calls upon the services of friendly, or intimidated, local media to get its messages across.

In one fell swoop, a person of good character can be rendered a womanizing pervert or worse.  The victims of such attacks are often discredited to the extent that whatever they say cannot damage anyone any more.  It’s a devious, insidious form of attack, which some might say is a little cowardly.  Regardless of the morality, such attacks can be highly effective.

An Opposition Leader

Antonio di Pietro
Antonio di Pietro - An Italian Politician

Recent examples of covert mud slinging in Italy are an attempt to blacken the name of Italian Values party leader Antonio Di Pietro through claims that a Christmas dinner he attended at a police station was really a cover up.

Any mud which landed on Di Pietro washed quickly off – this time.  However seeds of doubt will have been planted.

The Wrong Socks

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Another example, which was so blatant it looked farcical, and blew back on those behind the scheme, was an attempt to discredit a judge who presided over one of Silvio Berlusconi’s not uncommon legal wrangles.  About the only mud which could be slung at this innocent judge was the fact that he wore blue socks.

Still, there will now be a few people in Italy who will now be very suspicious of judges who wear blue socks, thanks to this albeit bungled attempt to make someone look bad.

However, as a result of this sock slinging, we have Blue Socks Against Berlusconi! In my day it was ‘better red than dead’, in contemporary Italy, it’s ‘better blue, than you know who’.

Now though, it’s Facebook’s turn.  There seems to be no great justification behind the claim that social networks in Italy are infested with people who can harm children, but justification is not required.  All you need is seed.

Plant Seeds of Doubt

Plant seeds of doubt, water them from time to time, and let them grow.  They will bear fruit eventually.

Ah, Machiavelli.

Actually, perhaps one should mention Caesar, who said ‘divide and conquer’.  Certain elements of Italian society continue to do their best to ensure that Italy remains as divided as possible, or so it would appear.

Article in Italian on Facebook: La paedofilia online viaggia su Facebook – Paedophilia Travels via Facebook – (Not true, if you take into account that only 20 cases were investigated – 39 on YouTube – see the report referenced below).

Social Networks and Kids

Note though, that paedofiles do haunt social networking sites, or any other place where children can be found online.  This is nothing new, but parents do need to be kept aware.  It is also very easy for people on the www to pretend to be something they are not.

Ensure your child tells you about anyone who says he or she wants to meet them during any online encounter.

Children often have more sense than parents want give them credit for -and they will listen to advice from people they respect, well, I did, and my son does too.


Corriere della Sera 2 February 2010à: Di Pietro, Contrada e la cena del 1992 – Di Pietro, Contrada and the Dinner of 1992 – in Italian.

Download 803 kb – RAPPORTO ANNUALE 2009 – 2009 Report on Paedophilia & Paedo-pornography .pdf – in Italian

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