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
    The Infamous Joe (profile), 9 Mar 2010 @ 9:22am

    Re: Google Italy Verdict

    But if you pull back from the reality of the Internet as we currently know it and imagine how it might have developed differently...

    Yes, because that's what the law is focused on-- alternate realities.

    ...you might see that this is a way for Google and other companies to shirk off responsibility--the definition of a corporation--for the content that gets posted

    So, you're actually claiming that if you, Ted, posted libel on this web page in the comments that Techdirt should get in trouble for giving you the means? What about the keyboard manufacturer? The computer manufacturer? The cable company? The electric company? The school system that taught you English? Maybe we should toss your mom in jail too, for without her direct action you never would have been born and thus could not have posted the libel.

    Or, and stay with me now, Ted, what if we just blame *the person responsible* for their actions? Hmm? Doesn't that make sense?

    ...which ignores the reality that most people who read the bad free speech will never hear the good free speech. Either way, you're essentially telling victims of libel that their pain and suffering is necessary for "Internet freedom."

    Even in the century you still live in, if the town crier yelled slanderous things about you, the people that heard it wouldn't necessarily hear him say it was all made up. Furthermore, libel and slander aren't "bad free speech." We have laws specifically against them so it is clear that they do not fall under "free speech". Or, ya know, we wouldn't have laws against them.

    Not just the Italian court, but a lot of American lawyers, agree

    When the American judges agree, let me know.

    They post ads next to content--much of which they steal from newspapers and book publishers, but anyway--which makes them publishers.

    So the video in question was "stolen" from a newspaper? I don't think you've ever even *been* to youtube.

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

    Says who? You? On what grounds? Why do you call it "exploiting" content? More specifically, what do you call it when newspapers do it? Is it any different to report on a house fire that the newspaper had no part it, but still made money from advertising around the story? Why?

    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.

    I can easily imagine flying cars, teleporters, women with three boobs and cartoonists that stick to making cartoons instead of stupid, poorly thought out comments. That doesn't make it so, unfortunately.

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