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Technically Illiterate

February 24, 2010 6:49:27.840

I love the "thinking" behind this acton out of Italy:

A Milan court has convicted three Google Inc executives for the 2006 transmission of a video showing the bullying of a youth with Down's syndrome, the judge in the case told Reuters on Wednesday.

As is their policy, Google removed the video once they were notified of the issue. That wasn't good enough for the geniuses prosecuting the case:

It said that, as hosting platforms that do not create their own content, Google Video, YouTube and Facebook cannot be held responsible for content that others upload, comparing the case to prosecuting the postal system for hate letters sent by mail. But the prosecutors accused Google of negligence arguing the video remained online for two months even though some web users had already posted comments asking for it to be taken down.

I wonder whether they pondered what that means. Pick a video that gets a decent number of views, and you'll find a few comments as to why it should go - there's always someone who objects. There's simply no way for any company to pro-actively do what these people seems to want, unless they are willing to put up with huge posting delays (manual review of all upoads), or a ton of false positives (as software excludes based on some kind of heuristic).

Do we really want video auto-pulled based on comments anyway? Consider how that would play out.

Oh, one last ill effect of this: the three Google executives in question now can't travel freely, even though they had nothing to do with this. I'm not sure we want a world where that sort of outcome is common, either.

Update: Google Comments:

But we are deeply troubled by this conviction for another equally important reason. It attacks the very principles of freedom on which the Internet is built. Common sense dictates that only the person who films and uploads a video to a hosting platform could take the steps necessary to protect the privacy and obtain the consent of the people they are filming. European Union law was drafted specifically to give hosting providers a safe harbor from liability so long as they remove illegal content once they are notified of its existence. The belief, rightly in our opinion, was that a notice and take down regime of this kind would help creativity flourish and support free speech while protecting personal privacy. If that principle is swept aside and sites like Blogger, YouTube and indeed every social network and any community bulletin board, are held responsible for vetting every single piece of content that is uploaded to them -- every piece of text, every photo, every file, every video -- then the Web as we know it will cease to exist, and many of the economic, social, political and technological benefits it brings could disappear.

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posted by James Robertson

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