Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Google Goes on Trial in Italy

The International Herald Tribune reports today on a fascinating trial which began yesterday in Italy. Prosecutors in Milan charge that Google officials violated Italian privacy laws by allowing the posting of a cell phone video in 2006 that showed four youths taunting a student with learning disabilities.

The first thing that occurred to me was that there must be thousands of videos that do that. Why all the fuss about this one?
The officials did not handle the posting directly, marking the first time that charges had been brought against representatives of a user-generated site for hosting an image without the subject's express approval, prosecutors said.

"What is at issue is whether or not privacy laws that apply to newspapers or to the radio also apply on the Web, or whether it is a sort of free port where anything goes," said Alfredo Robledo, one of the prosecutors in Milan who brought the charges after two years of investigation. "We are raising the issue to show that there are holes in Italian legislation."

I'm not sure what Sig. Robledo means by that, but the case surely has serious implications. And serious questions arise. Should the internet be totally uncensored? Can it continue to grow the way it has without self-destructing under the weight of all those sites that aren't for everybody? If left alone, would a sort-of natural selection process ensure its survival?

What's your opinion? Should certain sites be blocked and certain types of videos be prohibited? Did you know on-line gambling sites are blocked here in Italy? With everything else that is available, I find that quite amazing.

What's your opinion?


  1. The internet is only a few years old and evolving a rate faster than any government can hope to legislate.
    Things have a way of regulating themselves in the long run.

    I think Italy has some very big issues with the entire subject of CONTROL. I also think there is a factor of the radiation coming out of the Vatican...but that's another subject altogether.

  2. how long do you think it will be before there is a legal problem with this new google product?:

  3. did i walk through a time warp back to circa 1994 without noticing? the subject of debate, including some of the exact wording you guys use, echoes what was being debated back then.

    the only really new detail is that google --- the corporation that once adopted "don't be evil" as its motto --- is now steadily more widely acknowledged to be, to some extent or other, evil. well, it's a large international megacorporation now; those are inherently sociopathic, and hence evil.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Google videos in 1994? Really, Nomen?

  6. no, mike, discussions about how (or whether) the laws of various countries and localities might apply to the geographically non-localized internet in 1994. the specific example then was text and binary postings on the usenet, mostly, with the occasional FTP site thrown in for good measure.

    heck, a very few of those binaries were even videos; primitive MPEG-2's in the postage stamp size class, a few seconds long. took forever to download. could still be legally questionable.

    fifteen years later, and not only are these questions still unresolved, but some folks still think the internet is "new". in geological time, perhaps it is.

  7. We can settle the problem very easily.

    We will let the country, religion, or belief system that is the most strict about what people can see and read decide what is acceptable.

    Isn't that what Italy is trying to do? Censor the posts so that they aren't offended.

    It is pretty simple to me, Don't watch what you don't agree with.

    If you have kids, keep the computer in the room with the most traffic and monitor what they watch..Be a parent and be an adult.

  8. I remember a year or two ago there was a rash of these cell phone videos posted on the internet of school kids bullying others. Maybe this censorship was an attempt to erase some of the evidence which makes Italy look bad.

  9. Mike,

    Have you thought of something simpler?

    It is about control. If you can control what the people post -claiming it is for the kids' sake of course- then it creates a compliant populace?

    Nobody wants to see people recording kids being beaten up, right? Might encourage kids beating up kids...can't have that can you?

    Trust the government in this, let them tell you what can and can not be posted on it is kid fights. Tomorrow it will be porn -- again for the kids. Can't have them finding porn online.

    In a couple of weeks, it will be something else innocuous that people really can't object to....but slowly and surely the government is limiting the freedom of people.

    Always in the name of safety.....reminds me of something else the government is trying to do.