Proposed Spanish Law Would Make Online Calls For Street Demonstrations, And Circulating Riot Images, Illegal

from the who-needs-militarized-police-to-muzzle-dissent? dept

Techdirt has been highlighting the growing problem of police militarization in the US for a while, and its huge impact on basic rights like free speech. But over in Spain, the government has taken a rather different approach to muzzling dissent. Rather than turning the police into a militia that can stop demonstrations through the use of overwhelming force, it’s aiming to bring in a new law that makes organizing and taking part in protests — both on the streets, and online — almost impossible. Here’s Global Voices’ summary of what the new “Protection of Public Safety Bill” currently proposes:

It is against the law to participate in a demonstration before a state institution without sending prior notification to the relevant government office.

Disobedience or resistance to authorities; refusing to identify oneself; and giving false or inaccurate information given to state security agents are all prohibited.

“Insulting, harassing, threatening, or coercing” members of the Security Forces will constitute a serious offense.

But in addition to these general measures, there are some aimed specifically at ending the use of the Internet to organize protests:

Those who call for demonstrations through the Internet, social networks, or another other means may also be penalized for having committed a very serious offense.

The circulation of riot images during demonstrations can also constitute a very serious offense, punishable by 600,000€.

Circulating information on the Internet that is understood to be an attack on an individual’s privacy or that of a person’s family, or that contributes to disrupting an operation, will be punished equally with fines up to 600,000€.

The chilling effect that those last three will have on protests is clear. People will be reluctant to express any view that might be interpreted as calling for a demonstration, however vague. Forbidding riot images from being posted will, of course, mean that images of any police brutality against demonstrators are less likely to be circulated widely, removing one of the few brakes on violent police responses. And the last one concerning an “attack on privacy” is so vague that any mention of an individual might well be caught by it. In addition, anyone “insulting” Spain, its symbols or emblems, may be punished with up to a year’s imprisonment.

Despite pressure from the public and opposition politicians, the legislation has been passed by the Spanish Congress, and now goes to the Senate for final approval. That means the only thing likely to halt it is an appeal to Spain’s Constitutional Court. What’s worrying here is the very clear intent to bring in a law that makes the online organization and coverage of peaceful protests difficult or even impossible — something that many other governments would doubtlessly love to achieve, and may well even be encouraged to attempt if Spain goes ahead with this awful proposal.

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Comments on “Proposed Spanish Law Would Make Online Calls For Street Demonstrations, And Circulating Riot Images, Illegal”

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31 Comments
tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Dear Citizens...

If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.

Seems he had it right

Easy answer: Who’s boot? Who’s face?

There’s enough anger extant out here that they should be worried, perhaps even afraid, for their lives. “The peasants are revolting!” Yeah, and they’re sharpening the guillotines.

Anonymous Coward says:

and this is why the various governments are utilising what ever data gathering and surveillance they can! it hasn’t and never has had anything to do with terrorists or terrorism, it has always been about trying to keep ahead of the people when we want to kick off like we did over ACTA. if there are laws in place that prohibit any sort of demonstration, protest and any informing to others about protests, the security forces can get to the designated meeting places in time to stop things before they start and the people can be arrested and banged up for doing the slightest of things!!.
the even bigger problem is that if we are not careful, the Planet is going to become one massive dictatorship with individual leaders and we will all become servants!

BW (profile) says:

Re: Of course it will stop them (US)

I feel that many issues need to be protested against, and I support the protesters in many ways, but if it was legal, I would NOT be able to afford to do so, so yeah – it WOULD stop me – and there are probably lots of people like me that would be stopped by legislation like this. Also remember that if a protester commits a felony, and you gave them money or any type of help, you could be considered an accessory after or before the fact.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Route around the damage

Those who call for demonstrations through the Internet, social networks, or another other means may also be penalized for having committed a very serious offense.

The circulation of riot images during demonstrations can also constitute a very serious offense, punishable by 600,000€.

So instead, Spanish citizens can simply ask someone in a different country to call for demonstrations and circulate images.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Route around the damage

So instead, Spanish citizens can simply ask someone in a different country to call for demonstrations and circulate images.

Yup.

i) Coordinate with others across borders to help in each others’ demonstrations.

ii) Use throwaway phones so you can’t be found to be the sender of anything. They’ll likely outlaw that too, so they’ll need to coordinate the supply and distribution of them.

iii) Just before arriving at the demonstration, send an email to the appropriate authority’s reporting address announcing your intent to participate in a peaceful demonstration.

Have fun, try not to get shot, and see you when (if) you get out of jail.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Catalonia should split while there's still time.

Ultimately that is probably the main thing this law is meant to quell. That and the expected demonstrations starting when the next wave of economic cuts hit.

Spain, Italy and Greece are all turning bad in different ways:

– Spain is turning to oldschool repressive measures.

– Italy is turning towards their government instability and the massive corruption they know so well in politics. Especially after the new way to calculate economy.

– Greece is turning towards the most brutal fascist group in Europe at the moment (Golden Dawn) versus an activistic denialist coalition (Syriza).

Ireland and Portugal are the only countries who truely have left the PIIGS. Italy is on the fence towards recovering, Greece can at least see light at the end of the tunnel, while Spain still looks at a long darkness even if things are improving from horrible towards bad.

Anonymous Coward says:

The government has watched the Arab spring, and are scared shitless. Modern communications allows people to self organize, without any real leaders, and that can be almost impossible for governments to deal with. So they think they had better take steps now to prevent that happening, little realizing that they are making a popular uprising more likely by doing so.

Socrates says:

Re: A western spring might spring into action

Spain use might against the populace because might might be used against the privileged.

Sadly, the US and the rest of Europe also force the issue. Arming the police for massacres and occupation, dressing police officers as demonstrators and smashing windows, jamming of cell phones, erasing evidence, and making loyal mass medias utterly untrustworthy. And so on.

I assume crowd control is the motivation. Crowd as in the population. This has gone wrong before. Has they learned nothing from history?

Anonymous Coward says:

When a government is no longer willing to listen to it’s people. Why would people continue to bestow such a government with consent and authority?

The obvious answer is because the Spanish thug department will use physical violence against those attempting to undermine the government’s authority.

My answer is undermine their authority in little ways during your every day life. Death by a thousand cuts.

here we go again says:

So, it's not law yet...

That means it’s still legal to call for action now…

I hereby call for political protests and sharing of pictures taken at said protests by the good citizens of Spain. If this crap becomes law then ignore it. Continue to dissent and protest. If the government continues to oppress then revolt any way you can.

To the rest of the world, it’s time to South Park this thing; Catman-bra style… Somebody make a trendy hashtag and let’s get some shirts printed, stat!

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