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 >

Beyond @Congressedits, Capitol Hill Looks for Entry to Wikipedia

As he recently told techPresident, the creator of Congressedits did not aim to make Members of Congress look bad, but said he hoped that they would recognize the importance of Wikipedia as a public space and engage more with its community. "If staffers and politicians identified as Wikipedians, that would be super. You could imagine politicians' home pages with a list of their recent edits, that they would be proud of the things that they are doing." On Capitol Hill, there is in fact interest in making that vision a reality, starting off with an initial conversation that could create a framework for more Wikipedians in Congress. GO

wednesday >

In the Philippines, Citizens Go Undercover With Bantay to Monitor Public Offices

The Philippines, a country of almost 100 million, is considered among the most corrupt country in Southeast Asia, despite a boost in Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index in the past few years (from 134th in 2010 to 94th in 2013 out of 175.) Corruption involves all levels of government, but benefits also from a mindset of tolerance, says Happy Feraren, the co-founder of Bantay.ph, an anti-corruption educational initiative that teaches citizens how to monitor the quality of government services, sometimes by going undercover. GO

More