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.

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

In Mexico, A Wiki Makes Corporate Secrets Public

Earlier this year the Latin American NGO Poder launched Quién Es Quién Wiki (Who's Who Wiki), a corporate transparency project more than two years in the making. The hope is that the platform will be the foundation for a citizen-led movement demanding transparency and accountability from businesses in Mexico. Data from Quién Es Quién Wiki is already helping community activists mobilize against foreign companies preparing to mine the mountains of the Sierra Norte de Puebla.

GO

thursday >

NY Study Shows How Freedom of Information Can Inform Open Data

On New York State's open data portal, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation has around 40 data resources of varying sizes, such as maps of lakes and ponds and rivers, bird conservation areas and hiking trails. But those datasets do not include several data resources that are most sought after by many New York businesses, a new study from advocacy group Reinvent Albany has found. Welcome to a little-discussed corner of so-called "open government"--while agencies often pay lip service to the cause, the data they actually release is sometimes nowhere close to what is most wanted. GO

Responding to Ferguson, Activists Organize #NMOS14 Vigils Across America In Just 4 Days

This evening peaceful crowds will gather at more than 90 locations around the country to honor the victims of police brutality, most recently the unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, on Saturday. A moment of silence will begin at 20 minutes past 7 p.m. (EST). The vigils are being organized almost entirely online by the writer and activist Feminista Jones (@FeministaJones), with help from others from around the country who have volunteered to coordinate a vigil in their communities. Organizing such a large event in only a few days is a challenge, but in addition to ironing out basic logistics, the National Moment of Silence (#NMOS14) organizers have had to deal with co-optation, misrepresentation, and Google Docs and Facebook pages that are, apparently, buckling under traffic.

GO

More