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[nettime-lat] Cyber-Rights Activists Log a Win in Spain
ricardo dominguez on Fri, 29 Nov 2002 19:41:05 +0100 (CET)

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[nettime-lat] Cyber-Rights Activists Log a Win in Spain

Cyber-Rights Activists Log a Win

By Michelle Delio


02:00 AM Nov. 26, 2002 PT

A small group of Spanish cyberpunks may have saved their country's Internet
cafes from being branded as gambling dens.

The cyberpunks, who gather at the site Ciberpunk, organized protests after
discovering that that Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, president of the Community of
Madrid, had proposed a law that would classify Madrid's cybercafes as

If the law had passed, minors would not have been allowed in cybercafes,
from which roughly 20 percent of Spain's young Internet users connect to the

Activists also feared that stricter government oversight and zoning laws for
casinos would put Internet cafes out of business, which happened in northern
Spain after a similar law was passed there.

The cyberpunks organized their protests despite their conviction that
Gallardón's law would pass.

Previous movements to protect Spanish Internet users' rights had little
impact on politicians. In October, the country passed a law requiring all
commercial websites to register with the government.

Spain has also been affected by controversial European Union laws that ban
"hate speech" sites. Activists are closely watching how recent rulings
limiting deep linking play out across Europe.

But late last week, Gallardón announced he'd decided against supporting the
law, an action widely reported in Spanish newspapers as a win for the
cyberpunks, who credit their victory to Internet-facilitated communications
and getting non-Net users involved.

"The Internet is still a strange land to our politicians, who are not used
to facing such an immediate reaction," said activist David de Ugarte. "An
unexpected threat for them, that's what we were. And it worked!"

De Ugarte said he was "shocked and shamed" when he first heard about the
proposed law.

"In Spain, the example of Madrid and its regional government is as important
as New York's or California's would be in the U.S.A.," de Ugarte explained.
"Closing cybercafes in Madrid could be the first step to do it nationwide.
The consequences were predictable: No extension of the Net in the next

When David Teira, an assistant professor of philosophy at the Universidad
Europea de Madrid, heard about Gallardón's proposal he too was "completely

Teira said all instructors at the university are engaged in a "daily
struggle" to introduce their students to the Internet. They worried the law
would provide a greater barrier to student Net access.

So Teira posted a call to action on the Ciberpunk site.

His plan: Use the Internet to rally supporters, who would then go
door-to-door to explain to non-Net users "how our politicians were closing
the future for the next generation and even for us," explained de Ugarte,
who started the Ciberpunk site six years ago.

The group discovered that Gallardón had dropped the law when a newspaper
journalist phoned Ciberpunk press officer Natalia Fernadez and asked for a
comment on the group's success.

"Natalia collapsed and then apologized to the journalist for not having an
answer," Teira said. "Winning was not in our plans! So, we only had prepared
the B plan. No victory speech had been written."

"After I recovered from the shock, I communicated the news to everybody,"
Fernandez said. "We had a meeting by Yahoo Messenger to (decide) what to do.
It was a delicious moment."

Tiera said the group had already learned that online-only protests aren't

"The cyber-rights movement is not politically important when it expresses
itself only through the Net," he said. "But it can affect the national
agenda if we address our messages to ordinary people, and we do it in the
real world, door by door and face to face."

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