Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Italy's Hit on the Internet

BY Nancy Scola | Wednesday, February 24 2010

Credit: Photo of David Drummond by darthdowney

A rather, well, frankly, insane story from Italy, where four Google executives -- including well-known Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond -- have been convicted in an Italian criminal court over a video that showed a boy being taunted on a schoolyard that had been uploaded to and then deleted from YouTube, a Google product. From Deputy General Counsel Matt Sucherman, writing on the Google public policy blog:

In essence this ruling means that employees of hosting platforms like Google Video are criminally responsible for content that users upload. We will appeal this astonishing decision because the Google employees on trial had nothing to do with the video in question. Throughout this long process, they have displayed admirable grace and fortitude. It is outrageous that they have been subjected to a trial at all.

As Sucherman points out, not only is the trial's outcome rather personally horrifying for Drummond and the other Googlers involved (the three got six month suspended sentences), it's also a pretty direct hit against the principles that govern the Internet as well, at least as far as the social web goes. Google moved to yank the video from YouTube after complaints, and you can begin to imagine the effect that what the Italian courts have done here on anyone who hosts a platform where content can be posted, from a blog platform to Twitter to... The effect is potentially very chilling.

Particularly when you take a look at, for example, the effect that British libel law has on what people are free to write and say all over the globe. There's a big debate taking place in the UK right at this very moment over "libel tourism" -- i.e., people who pursue libel claims in British courts because of that country's broad-brush laws on the topic, often based on the argument that what's perhaps not offensive in other places can be downloaded in the UK in an instant, thanks to the Internet. If Italy becomes the venue where online offenses that originate anywhere in the world can be prosecuted, you can begin to imagine how that plays out.

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

GO

wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.

GO

The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.

GO

tuesday >

Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.

GO

Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.

GO

monday >

Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.

GO

friday >

In Google Hangout, NYC Mayor de Blasio Talks Tech and Outer Borough Potential

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio followed the lead of President Obama and New York City Council member Ben Kallos Friday by participating in a Google Hangout to help mark his first 100 days in office, in which the conversation focused on expanding access to technology opportunities through education and ensuring that the needs of the so-called "outer boroughs" aren't overlooked. GO

More