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. identicon
    Ted Rall, 9 Mar 2010 @ 9:50am

    Google Italy Verdict

    I don't own stock in Google. I don't care if Google goes out of business.

    I find it interesting that so many people here resort to name-calling rather than discussing the ideas at hand. To me, that indicates that they don't have any arguments at hand--only blind rage fed by surprise that someone would dare question their basic assumptions.

    @Chris Rhodes: "If, after a long bout of harassment, you get a restraining order against me to prevent me from calling you, and I call you again anyway, do you go after me or after the telephone company?"

    Both. After the phone company has been notified that it is not to place a call to me from you, it can easily prevent you from doing so. Since the phone company is probably richer than you are, my lawyer would probably agree.

    @The Infamous Joe: "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."

    Yes, if I were to post libel here, Techdirt should (and I believe would) be liable. Certainly such cases will eventually wind their way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Then we'll know for sure, but I'd bet money that plaintiffs would prevail.

    Under U.S. legal doctrine, the other parties you mention would be deemed too indirectly involved in my theoretical act of libel to be held accountable. The keyboard manufacturer, for example, could not stop my libel even if it wanted to. Neither could my mom. But Techdirt could easily do so. All they would have to do is moderate comments.

    Why don't you care about being victimized online? If a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged, a liberal is a libertarian who hasn't been screwed by a corporation.

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