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Greek blogger arrest infuriates world

The arrest of a blogger by Greek police just days before Athens hosts the inaugural meeting of the Internet Governance Forum has left the blogosphere in uproar and the authorities with egg on their face.31 Oct 2006

By Kieran McCarthy in Athens for The Register.

This story has been reproduced with permission.

Antonis Tsipropoulos was arrested at home on Tuesday by the Greek police following a complaint from a controversial Greek televangelist that Mr Tsipropoulos's blog aggregation site, blogme.gr, linked to slanderous material

The content in question is hosted at the FunEL blog, and mocks the colourful Dimosthenis Liakopoulos for producing trash TV and being anti-Semitic. However, since the blog is hosted in the US, the Greek authorities swooped on the popular blogme.gr site, arresting its owner, ordering him to appear in court in a few days to face charges and shutting down the service.

Mr Tsipropoulos originally posted a concise account of his arrest, complaining that he was not in any way able to control the content he had linked to, but later removed it, reportedly following legal advice.

The response from the blogging community worldwide has been swift and furious, with many Greek bloggers planning to organise a protest outside at the IGF meeting today when their prime minister formally opens the event at 10am at the Divani Apollon hotel south of Athens.

The arrest couldn't come at a worse time, following a high-profile campaign launched earlier this week by Amnesty International drawing attention to the bloggers worldwide who have been detained for posting information online. Many Greeks will be surprised to learn they appear to have joined the ranks of Iran, China and Vietnam.

What makes the matter all the more timely is that the arrest highlights an endemic misunderstanding of internet technology and policy, where authorities try to enforce laws over the net by charging whoever they can in their own country, who are nearest to the problem.

The main aim of the IGF meeting is for governments, business, international organisations and civil society to meet up and discuss the best methods of working with the internet and one another. If only the Greeks had been approached by Liakopoulos next week, the incident would most likely never have happened.

© The Register 2006