Italian Minister of Justice proposes an authority for violent videogames

By EDRi · November 22, 2006

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

According to the Italian national newspaper La Repubblica, the Italian
Minister of Justice, Mr. Clemente Mastella, has recently claimed that it
would be advisable to create an “authority” that would “decide on acceptable
standards related to the modalities of sale” of videogames, so that it might
be possible to “find those (videogames) that contain unacceptable levels of

An “authority”, in Italian political lingo, is a theoretically independent
public body that ought to check and control certain subsets of public life.
Examples include the “Autorità per le Telecomunicazioni” (Authority for
Telecommunications) and the “Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del
Mercato” (Authority for Guaranteeing Competition and (Free) Market), both
criticized in the past for their inability to clearly fulfil their mission
due to too much internal bureaucracy and/or a sort of “psychological
dependence” towards the Government in charge and other powers-that-be.

Mr. Mastella’s remarks, together with those of Mr. Giuseppe Fioroni,
Minister of Education, according to whom “freedom for videogames must stop
in front of the freedom of sons to live in serenity and without violence”,
and those of Mr. Paolo Gentiloni, Minister of Communications, according to
whom “the issues in protecting minors is not limited to television, but must
extend to new media”, seem to have been spurred by the videogame “Rule of

It is not clear at this point how an “Authority for Violent Videogames”
would be supposed to fare any better than the existing institutions; it is
also not clear whether Mr. Mastella is suggesting the creation of a new
rating system for the videogaming market in Italy – where the European
rating system PEGI, or Pan European Gaming Information, is already in use –
or rather he is proposing the introduction of new tools to control the
circulation of videogames on the basis of existing rating systems.

La Repubblica also quotes Mr. Mastella as adding that “both criminal (law)
intervention and commercial and administrative actions can serve as methods
of deterrence” and that “seizure is possible only when there is the
possibility of a crime such as incitement to commit a crime”. La Repubblica
does not report Mr. Mastella explaining in detail how a videogame could
incite to commit a crime, nor the way in which respect of the right to
freedom of expression, as enshrined in art. 21 of the Italian Constitution
would be achieved.

In the same article Mr. Giovanni Maria Pirroni, director of the IIMS, the
Istituto Italiano di Medicina Sociale (Italian Institute of Social
Medicine), is reported as saying that “inhibiting sales of videogames is not
a guarantee, since any kind of content can be downloaded through the
Internet”. It is not clear whether this constitutes recognition of the
difficulties that an Authority as proposed by Mr. Mastella would face, or
rather a call for similar regulations to be applied to online as well as to
offline transactions and sales.

This Italian desire for more regulation in the field seems to be finding
listening ears in the European Commission: Franco Frattini, Commissioner for
Justice, Freedom and Security, has recently demanded that the European Union
improve the protection of children against violent videogames. Mr. Frattini
has been quoted as saying that during the meeting of justice ministers,
scheduled for 5 December 2006, he would engage in “a first exchange of views
on this issue with the objective of identifying a possible scope for
complementary, national and European level activities […] including issues
such as awareness raising, the labelling of such games and the selling to

La Repubblica: Violent videogames in the government gun sight (only in
Italian, 14.11.2006)

EU Justice Commissioner highlights dangers of video games glorifying
violence (17.11.2006)

(Contribution by Andrea Glorioso, Italian consultant on digital policies)