Columnist Claims Italy's Google Verdict Makes Sense

from the someone-edited-that? dept

Ted Rall is a columnist/cartoonist, who, a couple years ago, wrote one of the most ridiculous opinion pieces we've seen in a long time -- suggesting that the answer to newspapers' current economic woes is that they should all take their websites down. That column was so full of economic and legal ignorance I thought there was a good chance that it was actually satire -- but people insisted he was serious. Now reader Mandy alerts us to a new column from Rall that again is so devoid of basic logic that I wonder if it's satire. This time he's standing way out on a limb arguing that Italy got it right in finding three Google execs criminally liable for a video some kids posted to Google Video.

Rall's reasoning once again defies logic. He seems unable to comprehend the difference between a publisher and a tool or service provider. Instead, he just insists that Google (and any other online service provider) should be forced to carefully review and fact check every piece of content uploaded before it can be available. Apparently, he doesn't quite recognize what he's asking for. On YouTube alone, more than 20 hours of video are uploaded every minute. And that's just YouTube. Rall also suggests that every blog post, every Tweet and every Facebook message should first be reviewed by an editor before it can be posted.

I think this really goes back to Rall's previous clueless column. He can't stand competition, so his solution is to put in place ridiculous free speech destroying rules and regulations to effectively kill off the internet, because someone might misuse it. His argument is based on the scenario that what if he ran a story falsely accusing you of being a drug-addicted child pornographer. He claims -- falsely -- that if he just published it online, there's nothing you can do about it. He later admits he's lying by saying you could sue him, but he brushes that off by saying no one would sue him because he has no money. Of course, people sue for libel all the time -- even those with no money.

But the really scary thing is that Rall seems to think that basically destroying the freedom to communicate and to express yourself online makes sense, just because the tool might possibly be used to spread a false statement. Does he not recognize the unintended consequences of this? Does he not realize that his "suggestion" for fixing the internet is effectively how much of China's internet censorship program works? Does he not think there might be more effective ways of dealing with such situations? For example, if Rall were to falsely accuse you of being a drug-addicted child pornographer, and it's clearly bogus, then you have an opportunity to fight back, and point out that Rall is wrong, destroy his reputation, and make sure he never gets another job again. Why not let free speech combat free speech?

Instead, Rall seems terrified of free speech, and would prefer that it only come from the "professionals" like himself.

Filed Under: communication, editors, filters, free speech, italy, ted rall
Companies: google


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  1. icon
    PaulT (profile), 9 Mar 2010 @ 9:21am

    Re: Google Italy Verdict

    "What this has done is create something that never existed before: the ability for a libeler to widely disseminate, potentially to hundreds of millions of readers, their libel."

    Not only incorrect, but the polar opposite of the truth. The person committing libel can - and should - be held responsible for said action. However, the company that merely provided the platform through which said libel was committed should not be held responsible for the actions of third parties over which it had no direct control.

    "I am not "confusing" a publisher with a service provider."

    Yes, you are. The problem is that much of the written law was created when physical publishing was the only way to publish, and such publishing was expensive, required editiors, etc. Now that anybody on the internet can instantly publish anything they want, the person who creates the material is a publisher, and the company providing the ability to do so is a service provider. Simple, even if Italian courts have some time to catch up to the current century.

    "If Google wants to get into the service provider business, they should stop exploiting content for money."

    Why? They provide a valuable service, that their customers could not on an individual basis (bandwidth costs for a popular video would be probhibitive, and who publishes without expecting their material to be popular?). Google are not a charity, and they deserve to make a profit if their service is popular.

    "Contrary to some commentators here, I can easily imagine a Google that employed tens of thousands of editors to vet material before it appeared online. The National Security Agency intercepts hundreds of millions of communications daily, processes them through the Internet, fax machines, bank wire transfer services and telephone lines, and investigates those suspected of terrorism and other anti-state offenses, all with a full-time staff of about 20,000 people."

    Unlike you, I don't believe that a private company who provide an optional service should be held to the same standards as a government agency tasked with national security.

    Besides, while many YouTube videos would not be published if your plan came to fruition, most of the traffic would move elsewhere. If YouTube were to be held responsible in this was, so would every single ISP. These are not known as high-paying employers for support & admin staff, and rightly should not be making such decisions.

    Are you OK with a minimum wage cube jockey determining your access to free speech? Really?

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