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.