The Internet hereby declared public
June 03, 2013
Meet the blogger who changed the law, sort of. Or whose case at least prompted Norwegian legislators to introduce legal amendments to allow for the Internet to be treated as a public place.
This story really, truly, beggars belief, but due to outdated computer systems Norwegian authorities have been unable to implement the updated version of the country’s penal code even though it was passed many years ago.
This means that for instance, Anders Behring Breivik, the terrorist behind the worst mass slaughter in modern Norwegian history, could not be sentenced under the terror paragraph as authorities have been unable to implement the updated penal code, which introduces a terror paragraph (I blogged more about this in 2011 here, in Norwegian).
But it also means judges were unable to send a controversial blogger to jail last summer for encouraging people on his blog to kill police officers, as – hang on – the internet, according to the old version of the penal code is not a public place (whereas in the updated version the authorities have been unable to implement the internet is). Read more about last summer’s verdict against the mentioned blogger here (in Norwegian, but this link deals with the legal considerations).
Luckily, that has propelled legislators to amend the relevant paragraph (§7) of the penal code they are stuck with until managing to implement the close to a decade old updated version of it. So now, even Norwegian law considers the internet to be a public place. Aftenposten has a witty comment on the implications here.
But I really needed to file this story to my blog archive of unbelievable but unfortunately true stories from our brave new media/IT-world, so I can look up the details easily whenever I marvel about the absurdity of it.
I interviewed the blogger in question in the aftermath of 22/7, he was then quite sympathetic to some of the things Breivik represented, but we chose to anonymise him as we were uncertain about his sanity in light of some of the things he said. That of course, is just a side note, the bigger, more important story is how outdated IT-structures (the police systems they are replacing run on Windows NT 4.0 !) seriously hamper police work and the outcome of trials - such as in this case, with the blogger who walked free because he made his threats online and not in print .
Btw, Vampus is right of course: even without this mess surrounding §7 of the penal code and IT-systems, it was never the case even in Norway that you could say whatever you liked online without potentially facing legal reprecussions. Recently another blogger has been sentenced for libel due to accusations made in a blog post, but I'm just blown by the absurdity of the above story.
Well it's emerged that 1970s computer are still involved in running nuclear plants, and will do so until 2050: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/06/19/nuke_plants_to_keep_pdp11_until_2050/
And, apparently, banks still use 1970s code, some written in assembler, engine control units in cars are built on existing software because everybody is too frightened to change what exists, there are industrial control systems in factories dependent on Windows 98 machines...and I could go on.
But I still don't understand what's going on with your criminal justice system. If they can modify the existing penal code why can't they introduce the new one? Or why isn't "many years" enough time to build a new IT system from scratch, if that's what necessary? (I don't expect you to be able to answer these questions, but maybe your politicians should.) Saying it still runs NT 4.0 isn't an explanation. Saying "we spent ten years building a IT system that was completely useless and doesn't work and are still stuck using our old NT 4.0 system" would be an explanation. Saying "the new penal code is so radically different that we will have to scratch build a system, and nobody has given us the funds" is an explanation. But randomly blaming NT4 is not.
Anyway, I have NT 4.0 disks, development tools, and experience from that era - if that would help... ;-)
Posted by: a_spod | June 29, 2013 at 12:03 PM
Maybe you should volunteer to help, for a decent fee of course :-) A new IT system was supposed to be in place some time this year, but I think the completion date has been postponed. If I understand the situation corrctly the problem is that the old IT system probably can't handle new type of sentence categories, such as for terrorism, and in genereal is not able to handle today's needs. I hear stories of police having to log in every other minute, are unable to use the system on mobile devices etc. But I'm not sure if they have tried to amend the situation by building a new system from scratch, I think, from the stories I've heard, that, at least for a long time, they've been trying to just patch up and build on the old system. Obviously, lack of funding could be a major culprit here, but also lack of IT-competence. We see a similar situatuion, though perhaps not quite as dire, in the public health care sector in Norway: The IT-infrastructure is hopelessly out of date/ unable to meet today's needs. So much so it can affect life and death situations negatively. The fax machine still plays a major role in hospital + GPs communiacation...
Posted by: Kristine | June 29, 2013 at 12:21 PM