Italy threatens the safe harbor of the internet

Last week 3 Google employees’ were convicted of failing to comply with Italy’s privacy code. They were acquitted of the original charges of the criminal defamation code of Italian law. Now you are probably asking “why were they charged in the first place and what does this mean to me?” And that might have the most terrifying answer of all.

In 2006 some Italian students made a video showing them bulling a mentally retarded student and uploaded it to Google Video. As soon as the police had notified them of the video Google immediately removed it from the servers and assisted in the apprehension of the students responsible. Thinking the situation was over Google was surprised to find out that a total of 4 employees had been charged with jail-able offenses. The Italian courts ascertain that hosting services are criminally responsible for any and all material that is hosted on it servers.

To break it down into lay terms it means that Google is responsible for reviewing EVERY single video uploaded into Google video and You tube. Now that is an impossible task to review every piece of material since YouTube alone receives on average 20 hrs of material a minute. To ask a host to review and censor based on obscenity laws every piece of material is stifling to say the least. It would require all bloggers to review every comment prior to it being uploaded, it would require Dan Carlin to review every thread and reply prior to allowing it on his site.

This is a backdoor way to censor the internet, to hold all providers 100% liable for any media submitted by average users will require providers to either cut out any ability to post or sift through tons of material trying to separate the ‘acceptable’ from the ‘undesirable’. What will happen when this spreads and countries start submitting arrest warrants for any material that their country finds obscene? Remember that obscenity is in the eye of the beholder and many beholders find anything they don’t agree with, obscene.

I don’t know what will happen to the 3 men convicted in the Italian courts, but I am hoping that Google will appeal. Users everywhere should be outraged by such ideas that countries can try and control what they do not own. The internet is not a medium it is a place and when you find yourself looking at something you find offensive remember there is that [X] in the corner of your browser.

Kevin Criswell

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