Luciano Quarta is one of the biggest experts of administrative law in Italy. On 9 January 2012, he was featured in the Italian newspaper, Italia Oggi, as the week’s “Avvocati Oggi” (Lawyers Today). Luciano focuses on governmental topics like public contracts, public network utilities, town and country planning law and especially energy law. He works with private companies and public administration authorities, either as an advisor or a litigator in the Italian Administrative Courts: Tribunale Amministrativo Regionale (TAR), Consiglio di Stato and public Arbitration Courts.
Luciano is a regular contributor to Italy’s specialized reviews on administrative law issues and has spoken at numerous international conferences on public contracts, public network utilities and town planning law. He is also an officer of the Italian Army Reserve. Every year, he dedicates time and expertise towards the NATO Corps and serves as a LEGAD (Legal Advisor). Today, we’re learning more about him.
Luciano, tell me about media when you were a child.
I was not even 10 years old when I learned about the death of Judge Vittorio Occorsio in 1976. I found out through traditional media at that time: TV and newspapers. At that time, any given Western European country had only 2 or 3 national TV channels. Everything was completely different back then — Spain was still led by Dictator Francisco Franco; Germany was split in two and the internet could not even be imagined by common people.
Today, children have plenty of new methods to get information about the world around them, including the internet and social media. I think that having more information sources is always an improvement. However, parents need to take responsibility of guiding their children through the many media options: TV, internet — anything.
Having a very international perspective has always been one of your main goals. In this context, does social media help tremendously in broadening your horizons?
Absolutely, yes. Before social media was commonly diffused and accessible, the only way to widen one’s view of the world was by travelling. Beautiful. Enjoyable. But complicated and expensive. Now, it is much easier and cheaper to embrace international perspectives by sharing someone else’s experience through the web via text, photos and video.
On the job, social networks and discussion forums allow for the exchange of professional ideas with colleagues beyond Italy. Additionally, I am able to find new ways to provide my professional services globally.
What do you see as the main difference in social media use in Italy compared to the United States?
Social media communication in Italy is an important field of expression for political organizations. Italians have tired of seeing the same faces as Ministers, Presidents and members of the Parliament for the past 40 years. They are sick of making heavy sacrifices so that government officials enjoy unlawful and enormous privileges.
Consequently, Italian blogs and other social media have become tools of political aggregation. One of these movements is “5 Stelle,” founded by Beppe Grillo. He started a political campaign based on environmental issues and fought against global market control by financial lobbies worldwide (entities like Goldman Sachs or the rating companies: Standard & Poors, Moody’s, Fitch, etc.). The campaign talked to the people about “conspiracy theory.” However you want to consider it, today, “5 Stelle” is a true political organization present on the board of many local governments, and it gives a voice to underrepresented opinions on “official” public information channels, like major TV stations and newspapers.
Another interesting project was started by Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, the CEO of Ferrari. He is also a key player in the FIAT group and within the Italian economy. His foundation is “Italia Futura,” focused on pushing innovation and the replacement of the entire old-school political guard — In Italy, commonly considered dinosaurs. Using social media as a platform, his website attempts to aggregate the youngest and most brilliant minds in any intellectual field to push out outdated politicians. I like this project greatly. I think it has very good vision and intent.
In 2007, you joined Grispini & Partners, Law Firm in Rome, as a partner and chief of the Administrative Law Department. Due to high levels of discretion and confidentiality, not much is known about the firm other than that it was involved in some of the most important real estate operations of the last years: the Enel (the Italian National Energy Company) spin–off, the re-organization of the real estate patrimony of Ferrovie dello Stato (the Italian State Railway company), and the constitution of the Real Estate investment fund of the Autonomic Region of Sicily. Where does social media fit in under such circumstances?
Strict confidentiality makes the situation difficult. It’s quite interesting to observe how big real estate and financial groups manage their public communication. Very often, these companies don’t consider social media communication at all. In my opinion, it’s not wise for them to undervalue this topic as a part of their public information policies.
As a professor, you have taught at the University of Dusseldorf; the University of Malta; and the Scuola Superiore dell’Economia e delle Finanze (the internal Superior School of the Economy Ministry). Do you cover legal issues in the context of social media in any of your courses?
I have covered legal issues in some of my courses, especially those which involve students who are military personnel. An inappropriate use of social media can compromise the image of a whole nation or cause a strategic action to fail.
Is social media and law becoming a growing trend in the discussion of law?
Yes, absolutely. There are plenty of discussions about issues related to intellectual property, the protection of the privacy, national defense issues related to military secrets, etc. The list is very long.
Please share your thoughts on freedom of speech on the internet as it pertains to individual rights and professional limitations.
I don’t agree with any limitation to the freedom of speech. However, it’s equally important to balance professional limitations, by which we mean those limitations on the freedom of speech related to occupational roles and duties. Non-disclosure agreements typical for lawyers, advisors and military personnel can be reasonable. Anyone who accepts a commitment, an appointment or a role, ought to be aware of the associated boundaries.
You are interested in freedom versus reputation. Please explain.
It’s quite simple. Anyone’s freedom is limited where another’s freedom begins. Everyone should be free to say whatever they want, but when they use this freedom, they must take responsibility for their actions. Thus, it is important that we be able to authenticate the identity of anyone who publishes information on the web that can affect someone else’s life and reputation. An exception, however, would be for the identity of dissidents in dictatorship countries since anonymity is vital for personal safety and the development of democracy there.
Should companies have the right to control their employee’s online activities regarding personal opinions?
Absolutely not. The only acceptable exception should be military personnel for the reasons we discussed above, and only within the limit of what is strictly necessary. Whenever there isn’t any risk to national security, freedom must be respected, regardless of military status.
What is the best way to distinguish personal versus professional online identity?
If it’s not clear by context, one can declare his/her identity and affiliation. For example, I now state that I am sharing my personal opinions as an individual, unrelated to my law firm or the Army.
Lisa Chau has been involved with Web 2.0 since graduate school at Dartmouth College, where she completed an independent study on blogging. She was subsequently highlighted as a woman blogger in Wellesley Magazine, published by her alma mater. Since 2009, Lisa has worked as an Assistant Director at the Tuck School of Business. In 2012, she launched GothamGreen212 to pursue social media strategy projects. You can follow her on twitter.