Who Is Responsible For Internet Content?

Mashable is reporting today that three Google Executives have been found guilty of privacy violations, giving them a 6 month suspended sentence.

The Google employees were sued after a video was posted (and subsequently removed) to Google’s video sharing site showing a boy with Down syndrome being bullied.

Google responded to the decision with a blog post:

“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.”

I think this is deeply troubling. Why should three people, with no direct involvement in the recording or posting of the video, find themselves the subject of criminal activity?

I agree with Stan Shroeder’s assessment of this when he says:

[it] at the very least bizarre and shows a blatant misunderstanding of how the Internet and various social content sharing services work.

The way we consume and share content has changed irreversibly, for better or worse, and content ownership rights have to be updated as a result.

Three individuals, with no direct involvement with the video, should not be faced with prosecution, letalone prison. It is up to the police to find the people in the actual video and to bring them to justice.

What do you think?

7 thoughts on “Who Is Responsible For Internet Content?

  1. This is ever so slightly ridiculous and I can’t help but feel for the three people involved. Thank God it was only a SUSPENDED sentence. Google’s statement really says it all, in that the ruling challenges the fundamental grounds on which the web is based. Anyone who’s been watching the BBC’s Virtual Revolution will have seen this very argument tossed around over the last month, and @aleksk questioning whether the original principles of the internet – freedom of speech – are now under threat. I agree, Matt – worrying.

  2. Matt–

    This is really par for course for Italy. It is no secret that Italy is the worst country in which to conduct business in Europe. This recent development is extremely worrisome.

    I wonder what makes Google liable to stand trial in Italy. It would seem this would encourage them to move their data centres and execs out as soon as possible.

    Epic Fail Italy! You’ve screwed yourself out of faster internet services, income tax revenue, etc.

  3. This is one of the more interesting posts I’ve read today. Keep it up. I’m sure I’ll read a lot more of you in future.

  4. Italy dropped the ball on this one, they should be hauling the camera manufacturer over the coals for building the device that allowed this horrible video to be recorded! ;-)

  5. Pingback: John Edelman – Whatido – Haldimand Motors – Interview | World online cars review

  6. Pingback: Who is responsible for content on the Internet? | Information Strategy

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