Italian Prosecutor Wants To Bring Criminal Charges Against Facebook For Not Stopping A Suicide

from the not-this-again dept

You may recall a few years ago, an absolutely ridiculous case in Italy, in which a criminal complaint was filed against Google executives, because some bratty kids made fun of a boy with Down's Syndrome and posted the video to Google Video. Eventually, some of the execs were found guilty. It looks like there may be a repeat of this, as an Italian prosecutor is talking about bringing criminal charges against Facebook because it failed to remove some mean messages that some believe led a teenaged girl to commit suicide.
"In the case of Carolina, it appears some of her friends, some of her relatives, asked for the removal of some of this strong content, and it wasn't removed -- and this played a role in her decision to commit suicide," he said.
This is ridiculous on multiple levels. As we dealt with back in the Lori Drew case, when you go around blaming people with criminal charges after someone commits suicide, you're encouraging more suicide, because you're telling people that if they kill themselves, there will suddenly be real punishment for those who bullied them. But the decision to commit suicide is an individual's choice. This is not to defend bullying, but you open up a very dangerous path when you start suggesting criminal charges against someone based on someone else's actions.

But, the even bigger issue is the focus on Facebook -- which was merely the service being used for communication. If the harassment of the teen had come via the telephone, would Italian prosecutors be looking to bring criminal charges against Telecom Italia? If the harassment had happened on the playground, would the prosecutors be looking to bring criminal charges against the school? Of course not. But, for whatever reason, in this digital era, people seem to think it makes sense to blame the technology service that someone used.

This is why we think secondary liability protections like Section 230 of the CDA are so important. This is why we think it's horrifically dangerous that here in the US, state attorneys general are looking to obliterate such secondary liability protection -- allowing them to file similarly ridiculous lawsuits against third party service providers.


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    That One Guy (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 9:53am

    Why stop there?

    Obviously the person who committed suicide never would have been able to access facebook, and therefor see the messages that were the supposed cause, were it not for the infrastructure(phone, electric, and so on) put in place by the government, so obviously the government is the one to blame here.

     

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    Richard (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 10:12am

    Italian prosecutors

    Italian prosecutors do this all the time - for many years Frank Williams and a number of other people in his F1 team were unable to travel to Italy as a result of an accident that they held him (unreasonably) responsible for.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Ayrton_Senna

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 10:17am

    This is the country that prosecuted - and convicted - scientists for failing to predict an earthquake. They went off the deep end long ago.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 10:24am

    Logging into Facebook is unhealthy.

     

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    That One Guy (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 10:24am

    Also, and as I don't use facebook these may be naive questions but:

    If the messages in question were on her facebook page, could she not simply delete them?

    And if they were on other people's pages, could she simply have blocked and/or not gone to the pages containing them?

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 10:28am

    NO, was because Google didn't take it down AFTER complaints!

    You're simply OMITTING FACTS here: "in which a criminal complaint was filed against Google executives, because some bratty kids made fun of a boy with Down's Syndrome and posted the video to Google Video."

    In line with my new policy of one point per post, I'll now read further and see if you've ceased omitting crucial facts...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 10:35am

    sad that this girl took her own life .. but a witch hunt none the less.. there are lots of maybes but not enough facts. kids will be kids .. its up to the parents to handle in house issues.

     

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    Zakida Paul (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 10:38am

    Can we bring charges against Ford for not stopping drink driving deaths as well?

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 10:38am

    Civic responsibility: "failed to remove some mean messages".

    IT'S YOUR SAME TAKE! You view section 230, incorporation, and various statutes as SHIELDS from ALL responsibility -- while still getting the money -- not as guidelines to facilitate useful public affairs. You are PRO-corporate.

    A BUSINESS does not escape regulation or responsibility simply by calling itself a "platform", NOR does it escape even with statute, common law still obtains. -- And the very existence and wording of Section 230 could as easily have been bought by corporations as any other law, but of course when it's to advantage of your precious, why statute is pure and good.

    What is it you object to about businesses being forced to take SOME reasonable responsibility for what's posted? It's no skin of your nose, is it? If your precious Google or Facebook are forced to spend a little money on monitoring the sites they get BILLIONS from?

     

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    Hephaestus (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 10:43am

    Re:

    You are dealing with a nanny state, and prosecutors that want to show they are "Doing Something".

     

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    Rikuo (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 10:49am

    Re: NO, was because Google didn't take it down AFTER complaints!

    Try cleaning your own house before complaining about anyone else's. Your own comment history is very empty of fact.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 10:49am

    I am beginning to think that maybe the internet should close its doors to Italy. Perhaps then, these grand standing prosecutors could find something else to go after.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 10:50am

    Re: Civic responsibility: "failed to remove some mean messages".

    If you ask me, they should be immune from liability and not required to monitor, but still subject to court orders to take the stuff down. I think that would be a reasonable compromise. Then we don't get the ridiculous stuff like yesterday's copyright transfer by a judge to get around it.

     

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    Zakida Paul (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 10:52am

    Why did the NSA not do anything about this? They are bound to have seen it.

     

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    RyanNerd (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 10:52am

    I'm sure this would not have happened in the UK

    I mean: with the Chinese built Internet filtering in place in the UK, I'm sure all mean and offensive statements would have been scrubbed clean before even making it to the FaceBook servers and a life would have been saved.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 11:01am

    Re: Civic responsibility: "failed to remove some mean messages".

    The phone, post, and Facebook are all message carrying services, for real time voice, exchange of letters and parcels, and posts on a message board where the users control who can see their messages. The phone offers the service of connecting two (or more) people in real time for conversations,. The post to carry letters and parcels to the addressee, and Facebook to store messages, and let the people you allow to see them. All the service are useful because they are neutral with respect to content, they allow people to communicate in different fashions, but that is what they offer, a communication platform or channel.

     

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    silverscarcat (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 11:02am

    Re: Civic responsibility: "failed to remove some mean messages".

    Would you sue Walmart if someone jumped off the top of the building because someone else bullied them at Walmart constantly and/or dared them to jump, thus causing them to die?

     

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    Ninja (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 11:03am

    So can we prosecute the Italian Government for not succeeding in stop murdering by the mafias? Hypocrites ;)

     

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    Michael, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 11:14am

    Re:

    They were too busy spying on the people of the United States. Spying on foreigners would require additional funding.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 11:19am

    wasn't it Italy that has just blocked access to ISOHunt? you cant sense where there isn't room, can you??

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 11:33am

    No liability does not mean you have to ignore requests

    Not to jump all in on an anti-Facebook spiel but if someone were receiving harassing phone calls and repeatedly ask for a new phone number and never gets one. I hope the phone company can take a portion of accountability. That is not to say the abusers get off scott free.

     

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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 11:43am

    Re: No liability does not mean you have to ignore requests

    if someone were receiving harassing phone calls and repeatedly ask for a new phone number and never gets one


    ...then you'll get all uselessly mad at the phone company. The phone company, despite being actually regulated (unlike, day, Facebook), is not required to give you a new phone number in these cases. If they don't give you one, you have no basis to sue them.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 11:57am

    Re: No liability does not mean you have to ignore requests

    How about not viewing Facebook if you don't like what you see? Someday we have to start holding people personally responsible for their own actions again. Blaming everyone else for our own problems only leads to more problems.

     

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    Guardian, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 12:01pm

    jump already

    if your mentally unstable and the net didnt exist what law would you require then? OH I DUNNO MAYBE SOME MENTAL HEALTH CARE FOR POOR PEOPLE?

    This nsa spy world we live in is so unhappy for many and unhopeful and all full a depressions that your actually doing dmaage to people by that way and traina thought...

    faceplant who uses that spyware any more....heck what is g+...everyone is moving back off those things....

    italy lected a fucking kiddy didler....why not look at your other politicans ya bunch a sickos beofre ya bother pestering someone else...

    OH and i we all wrote were gonna kill oursleves jsut what the fuck are you gonna do , no really hire 1 billion cops to go to everyones house....

    with 400 billion a year the usa nor facebook can afford to spend any money expect on spying ok....no really sorry but they pulled fbi off missing kids cases and you expect yankies to give a fuck?

    REALLY italy needs a slap to wake the fuck up

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 12:33pm

    I am horrified at the level of apathy to this young woman's situation this article exposed. Just suppose a postman confirmed a suspected package for anthrax. Under your get the message through at all costs logic, someone will wind up injured without so much as a batted eye. Is it a slippery slope of recklessness to comply with removing comments? Then you need look no further than this site. It only starts with hiding unwanted comments from folks you may disagree with, not a problem. But if you silence harrassment, that is just anti-internet and will not be tolerated.

     

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    Rikuo (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 12:41pm

    Re:

    Are you honestly that stupid?
    In order for these bullying messages to work, the suicide victim has to, you know, make the choice to commit suicide. It's all down to her. As long as the suidicde victim doesn't commit the deed or alter her lifestyle in any way, the bullying messages aren't harmful to her.
    Anthrax on the other hand, is a harmful substance in and of itself. Of course any packages containing it should be stopped.

    Oh and nice try AJ at trying to hide. Just couldn't help it with that very badly hidden attempt to make a dig at our so called "censorship", could you?

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 12:54pm

    Re:

    I just want to confirm that you're suggesting words/speech harm people in the same way as anthrax. Because unless you're referring to Anthrax the band, that's really stupid....

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 1:16pm

    I think Julian Perez says it best:

    "Services are what make content possible and available, since the days of radio, television and the internet."

    https://twitter.com/julianlives/status/362438322716545025

    Facebook is the service, and without it, this content wouldn't have been possible or available, so Facebook should be held responsible for it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 1:27pm

    Re: NO, was because Google didn't take it down AFTER complaints!

    Instead of focusing on the QUANTITY of points, may I suggest you redirect your focus to the QUALITY of points?

    Thank you.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 1:30pm

    Re: Civic responsibility: "failed to remove some mean messages".

    Fair enough...

    Next time there's a car accident, we go after the manufacturer of the car.

    Next time there's a gun crime, we go after the gun manufacturer.

    Your day-in day-out regurgitation of the same old horse shit has GOT to have everyone around you ripping their hair out.

     

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  31.  
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    A Monkey with Attitude, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 1:36pm

    Re:

    Kipling said it best:

    IF you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
    Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
    And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
    If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
    If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
    Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

    If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
    And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
    If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
    And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

    If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    ' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
    if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
    If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
    Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
    And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 1:43pm

    Re:

    If someone actually manages to ship Anthrax via Facebook, then yes, Facebook has a responsibility to stop that. But I don't think 3D printers are that advanced yet...

    It's not the postman's job to look at the letters he carries to see if they are mean letters that may drive someone to suicide. Facebook should not be looking at private messages any more than the post office should be opening your mail. And public messages are public, so the police can take proper action against the writer if they feel it is warranted.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 2:04pm

    Re:

    Facebook is the service, and without it, this content wouldn't have been possible or available, so Facebook should be held responsible for it.

    Try the phone companies provide the service therefore they are responsible for the contents of all phone calls. This makes as much sense as blaming Facebook for content.
    There is a huge difference between a service, which allows users to provide the content without supervision, and TV and Radio where someone decides what content to broadcast.
    Just because Facebook provides the servers and software that allows users to store and retrieve data does not makethem resposible for the contents that users post.

     

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    McCrea (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 2:05pm

    Re:

    People can also be tagged in other people's posts which can show up in friends' newsfeeds, but it's not said if that's the case.

    Regardless, I don't think that it would change the case if she didn't even have a Facebook account.

    If my friends I posted anywhere "That One Guy is so fat and ugly I can't stand the smell" and hundreds of others, and you had to hear about directly it from your friends and family after they read it, and indirectly from your co-workers and classmates who decided to follow the same degrading lines when they spotted you, whether or not your have access to where I posted is fairly moot, imo."

    And when you say, "simply do no go to the pages", it seems you're not understanding the problem. The problems is when people who are not your close friends and family go there, and then decided to harrass you in person. Of course you want the material removed and "not going to the pages" is not a solution.

     

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    Anonymous, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 3:34pm

    Re: Re: Civic responsibility: "failed to remove some mean messages".

    * Snickering at the thought of some joker playing Van Halen's "Jump" repeatedly through Wal-Mart's speaker system *

     

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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 4:06pm

    Re: Re:

    The problems is when people who are not your close friends and family go there, and then decided to harrass you in person. Of course you want the material removed and "not going to the pages" is not a solution.


    The problem is with the people doing the harassing. Charging Facebook (or any other such service) with a crime is not the solution. It just creates a new problem while doing nothing about the old one.

     

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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 4:10pm

    Re:

    Facebook should be held responsible for it.


    I couldn't disagree more. I assert the opposite -- Facebook should not be held responsible for it. The people actually doing the obnoxious things should.

    I think it is a bad idea to sanitize the internet to fit the sensibilities of the weakest among us. I don't want to live in a Disney world that has been made safe for infants and the mentally ill. I want to live in the real world.

     

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    McCrea (profile), Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 7:10pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    I didn't charge FB with a crime of suggest anyone should.

    I did in fact say the problem is when people are harrassing, even if we were talking about different aspects of the problem.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 2nd, 2013 @ 10:15pm

    Re:

    I would ask for a refund on your education.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2013 @ 1:06am

    Re: Re:

    It appears words harmed that girl a great deal, wouldn't you say? She is, after all, DEAD.

    And your attempt at dodging logic with the usual attempt at semantical misdirection is quite the epic fail.

    The analogy is based on the act of harm, not the scale of its lethalness.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2013 @ 7:18am

    Re: Re: Re:

    So... you're going to blame an over-glorified bulletin board system that isn't actually monitored by humans in any way for the death of a girl with mental issues. You aren't going to actually delve into the issue, but just want to splash the blame on the biggest target. This is actually a huge part of the problem. Stop trying to use emotional arguments, because those are the tools of the weak-minded. Instead, look at the entire scenario. Why are you blaming someone else for the actions of the bullies? Shouldn't you be going after the people who posted the comment? Wouldn't that make more sense, be more of a deterrent to future posts than going after the tool used?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2013 @ 7:21am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Funny, the misdirection seems to be your's. You'd punish the tool instead of the user. That's like blaming the gun for the killing when the person really responsible is the one that pulled the trigger. There is no logic in your accusations.

     

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    anonymouse, Aug 3rd, 2013 @ 7:58am

    Sick.

     

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    anonymouse, Aug 3rd, 2013 @ 8:06am

    Sick

    For this author to insinuate that there is a problem with a child that commits suicide is not only crazy but reflects on how stupid he really is. If i can make your life hell , so much so that everyone is mocking you on a daily basis and does not take anything you say seriously you can be pushed into a situation where you think of suicide as the only way out. Not accepting this is a problem, the author needs to apologise to all those that have suffered the loss of someone that committed suicide becasue their lives were made hell by a bully.

    Bullies are the lowest life form and need to be punished , i agree Google or Youtube should not be target, the bullies should be. 12 month courses with classes three times a week teaching bullies what it feel like to be bullied and teaching them how to not bully and deal with bullies to support those being bullied would be a much better use of their free time than posting silly comments on youtube.

     

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    anonymouse, Aug 3rd, 2013 @ 8:09am

    Re:

    Love to see you say this if you had kids that were being bullied, you would probably be the first to run to the police to ask them to stop it.
    Why should kids not be allowed to use the internet just becasue if a few idiots that think it is funny to bully others.
    Attack the bullies , make them pay.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2013 @ 8:46am

    Re: Re:

    Actually, I'd be teaching them the same thing I was taught, and taught to my nephews. Most bullies want to pull you down because they think you are weak, or are trying to make themselves feel strong. On Facebook, you can make your profile private, and block people and posts you don't like. If you can't learn how to handle things, you'll always be bullied.

    I don't run to the cops for much of anything, mostly because the cops are useless for anything that isn't paying into their pockets or boosting their egos. Cops, generally, are the biggest bullies around.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2013 @ 8:50am

    Re: Sick

    No one called the victim stupid. Only you. The only really sick thing is that you're going to try and push an emotional argument instead of a logical one. Yes, it is tragic that the child took their own life, but why did the parents not look into the controls available on Facebook? All those posts could have been hidden from the child with a few simple clicks. Their profile made private so no one could just post to them. You can even block users entirely.

    The author has nothing to apologize for, because he was not addressing the same issue you are trying to cite. They are talking about the issue of blaming the tool for the acts of others.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2013 @ 9:26am

    Re: Civic responsibility: "failed to remove some mean messages".

    Alright then.

    Let's start removing your mean messages.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2013 @ 1:07pm

    Bear the Responsibility For Free Speech

    a very dangerous path when you start suggesting criminal charges against someone based on someone else's actions

    Everyone is responsible for their words spoken against someone else whether they have justification or not for what they say. When a social network allows this free speech to go on without safeguards in place that limit what other's may not be taking responsibility for, then that social network must bear the responsibility for what it has allowed especially when tragedies like this could possibly have been prevented in my opinion.

     

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    That One Guy (profile), Aug 3rd, 2013 @ 7:28pm

    Re: Bear the Responsibility For Free Speech

    So I take it you're volunteering to go over the millions, if not billions of facebook posts to make sure they can't offend anyone? Because that's pretty much what you're asking them to do.

    I do love the about face in your post though, first you say people are responsible for their own actions, then you turn around and say that facebook is also supposed to be responsible for their users' actions just in case those actually responsible aren't being punished enough. Doesn't matter who gets punished, as long as someone gets the blame eh?

    Thing is though, the only ways sites like facebook, youtube and other sites that host user submitted content are able to exist is because they aren't held responsible for the actions of their users. If that were not the case, they would either shut down entirely less they be sued into oblivion, or would have to personally clear each and every post/submission, which would not only slow the sites to a crawl, but a ton of otherwise harmless content would also be nixed, just in case it might end up offending someone.

    Put plainly, free speech with limits like you suggest, like not being allowed to offend anyone, is not free speech at all.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 3rd, 2013 @ 10:41pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Akin to "shooting the messenger"?

     

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    Anonymous, Aug 4th, 2013 @ 2:12pm

    Re:

    Just look at the Roman empire. (Why it wasn't called the Italian empire is, I guess, a subject for another discussion.)

     

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    Bergman (profile), Aug 4th, 2013 @ 2:14pm

    Re:

    It seems the trend that was seen with Galileo is still going strong.

     

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  54.  
    identicon
    and_into_the_fire, Aug 4th, 2013 @ 7:02pm

    "when you go around blaming people with criminal charges after someone commits suicide, you're encouraging more suicide, because you're telling people that if they kill themselves, there will suddenly be real punishment for those who bullied them"

    Are you fucken serious? Do you read yourself before you post this shit.
    And before everyone jumps up and down read the sentence.

    Would not seeing people not punished be more demoralising?

    And are you really suggesting that people commit suicide to punish others?

    And what the fuck does "blaming with criminal charges" mean?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  55.  
    icon
    Sheogorath (profile), Aug 4th, 2013 @ 8:05pm

    Re: NO, was because Google didn't take it down AFTER complaints!

    NO, was because Google didn't take it down AFTER complaints!
    Nope, still failing to see why Google, Inc. should take something down that was posted on Facebook, a service in which they have neither ownership or control.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  56.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 5th, 2013 @ 2:48pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "It appears words harmed that girl a great deal, wouldn't you say? She is, after all, DEAD."

    Interesting reasoning. It was my understanding that she committed suicide, meaning SHE made herself dead. That is undoubtedly a tragedy, and people may indeed have been enormous assholes to her, but those words did not cause her death. I know that because I experienced bullying myself, and verbal abuse in certain contexts, and nothing anyone said to me, including the verbage this girl had to endure, would EVER make me kill myself. I was raised to understand words have no power beyond what I give them. So, no, the words didn't kill her.

    "And your attempt at dodging logic with the usual attempt at semantical misdirection is quite the epic fail."

    Hey, you made the comparison, champ, not me. And when arguing against someone's semantics, you should probably spell shit correctly....

    "The analogy is based on the act of harm, not the scale of its lethalness."

    Oh, no, I got that part. The problem with your analogy is that anthrax directly harms. Words do not.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  57.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2013 @ 4:45pm

    The NSA bullied me, now I'm off to go take one for the team.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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