Spain Passes Draconian Laws Affecting Internet Freedom
For a few years, there have been grumblings in Spain about the attempts to pass laws which forbid the photographing of police officers as well as various types of civil disobedience. Tolerance of civil disobedience is globally seen as a hallmark of a free society, but now “unauthorized” protesters in Spain will face steep fines, and photographing police in the line of duty is now illegal.
Perhaps more interesting to our audience, however, are the new heavy-handed regulations regarding online activities such as pirating movies and games. If it can be deemed to be done for “commercial purposes,” which is a vague concept, piracy can now be punished by up to three years in prison. Such laws seem to be popping up worldwide, involving the government in the private affairs of content creators and consumers.
Also read: NYPD Hacks Wikipedia With False Information
Cyberactivism and Anti-Terrorism
In addition to the laws which forbid the photographing of police or the organization of “unauthorized” protests, citizens who post online about civil disobedience events could also be subject to the criminal prosecution. Specifically, the law states:
Distribution or public dissemination through any medium, of messages or slogans that incite the commission of any offense of disorderly conduct under Article 557 of the Penal Code, or serve to reinforce the decision to carry them out shall be punished with a fine of three to twelve months or imprisonment from three months to a year.
Most onerous of this is “serve to reinforce.” Does this mean that people posting on social media in support of protesters will be just as guilty as those protesting? Time will tell, as the laws take effect in July, and following that, will be enforced.
Perhaps worst for hackers of a political bent, it is now a terrorist act to attack a government website. Additionally, the very act of buying a Virtual Private Network subscription can be considered illegal.
Illegal to “Glorify and Publicly Justify” Crime
It may be hard to believe, but the government has actually made it illegal to state in a public way that one agrees with something illegal. While doing so is obviously not the same as actually breaking the law, now those who “glorify” or “publicly justify” something deemed a crime under the new law can be subject to up to eighteen months in prison. From the law:
Glorification and public justification of crimes under Articles 572-577 or those who participated in its execution or performance of acts involving disrepute, contempt or humiliation of victims of terrorist offenses or their families, shall be punished with imprisonment of one to three years and a fine of twelve to eighteen months.
Has Franco Returned?
Often forgotten about Spain is that the fascist Francisco Franco was in power until 1975. During his reign, he executed some between 200 and 400,000 political opponents. His era was one of severe repression characterized by labor camps and strict limits on political freedoms.
Such laws as these would not have been a surprise to Spanish citizens during that time, but in the modern era of democracy, they seem to have no place. While many would consider some of the changes, such as steep penalties on child and revenge pornographers, to be legitimate, these reasonable laws come at the cost of numerous civil liberties. Not to mention, a new widespread reduction of accountability of the police force will now be in effect since it is illegal for citizens to document any police misconduct.
Read the English translation of the new laws here.
Images from Shutterstock.