UK Politicians Demand YouTube Vet Content To 'Protect The Children'

from the the-end-of-safe-harbors dept

Various safe harbors for service providers that protect them from the actions of their users make a lot of common sense. It's simply wrong to blame a service provider for the actions of its users. We don't blame the telephone company when someone commits a crime using the phone. And we don't blame the car company for providing the getaway car. Nor do we ask those companies to do anything to block those actions. That's because we all realize how silly that is -- to blame a tool provider for the actions of its users. Yet, for some reason, when we move online, that concept gets confused. While most of the focus has been on safe harbors concerning copyright or defamation, when you toss in a bit of "but think of the children!" it gets even more ridiculous.

We've already seen this with US politicians bullying ISPs into blocking "objectionable" content, even though they have no legal basis for this (and, in fact, such blocking will only make it more difficult to track down those actually responsible). And, now we see it in the UK. UK MPs are claiming that Google needs to vet all of the content uploaded to YouTube "to protect children from harmful content." Seriously.

I guess it's only in the techie community that we recognize that the phrase "to protect the children" is almost always followed by a plan that does the opposite.

The politicians seem concerned that occasionally, questionable content is found on YouTube, and it might take them (gasp!) 24 hours to take it down. Apparently it has not occurred to those behind this demand that perhaps they should be focused on using the content being uploaded to track down those actually responsible for the objectionable (illegal?) content, rather than demanding that Google proactively hide the evidence. Next up, we'll be expecting the report where politicians demand that telephone companies "proactively" review all telephone calls to make sure there is no objectionable content "to protect children."

Filed Under: politicians, protect the children, uk, vet content, videos
Companies: google


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  1. identicon
    Jake, 1 Aug 2008 @ 12:39am

    On The Other Hand...

    Unusually for me, I have to defend the politicians on this one. YouTube relies almost entirely on peer-review to enforce its terms of service, but is it really likely that someone is going to report this stuff if they've specifically searched for it? And when it was pointed out to them that a video of three lads setting on a passer-by and beating him nearly to death -apparently with the specific intent of putting it on YouTube- had accrued over seventeen thousand views before anyone complained, their response amounted to, "Not our problem." Regardless of the exact letter of the law, that struck me as being a bit off. I also find it hard to believe that setting up a bot to search for certain keywords and delivering the results to a couple of dozen interns and passing any evidence of criminal activity they turn up on to the appropriate authorities would put much of a dent in their profit margin.

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