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Web sites blackout over Spanish monitoring law

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Spanish Web site operators have taken their sites offline in protest at government proposals to regulate online content.

The spontaneous protest comes amidst deep concern among free speech advocates about Spain's "Law of Information Society Services and Electronic Commerce" (or LSSI as it is known in Spain), which became effective on Saturday (October 12th).

Under the law Web sites must register with the government and ISPs are obliged to monitor sites for illicit content, which they must report to the authorities.

Failure to comply with the law would result in heavy fines of up to €600,000.

The law, put forward by Spain's Ministry of Science and Technology, would allow the authorities to obtain judicial orders to shut down sites and seize their contents and activity logs, which ISPs must retain for up to 12 months.

Protestors, who succeeded in securing minor changes to the proposals in Spain's Senate, are trying to secure a hearing challenging the law in Spain's Constitutional Court.

In the interim, people are voicing their protests against the "inquisitorial" new law by taking their sites off line. Online community site Kriptopolis, A member of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign, which began but is not organising the offline protest, has published a list of 90 sites that have taken part in the protest so far.

Jose Manuel Gomez, Editor of Kriptopolis, who's been involved in the campaign since the Spanish government first drafted its proposals in May last year, told us "clearly this law has been passed for controlling web contents and to force editors to self-censure."

"As a protest we've closed our own site (about 500,000 visits per month., until then) from October 1. The Law became effective on October 12 and from that very moment many Web sites have *spontaneously* decided to go off-line to support the closedown, to protest against the law or simply because of fears of the way that inquisitorial new law will be applied in Spain from now on," he said.

International privacy organisation STOP 1984 has changed its main page to show its support for the close-down.

"We lament the loss of many web sites of Spanish NGOs. They had to go offline or will go offline soon because of the LSSI," the site comments, above a tombstone declaring "RIP: Democracy". ®

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