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
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2010 @ 6:22pm

    Under no reasonable court system in the world should that make sense -- which is why we're all so troubled by the Google verdict. France, a blogger is responsible for what is written in the comments of his blog. The admins of a forum are responsible for all messages posted on the forum. Along with the original author of the "wrongful" comment.

    However, it must be proved they were aware those messages were published. For example, if comments/messages are first checked (moderated) by the owner/admin of the site before being published, owner/admin takes responsibility for those comments/messages as soon as they get published (the author of the comment/message is also held responsible). If comments/messages are automatically published without prior moderation (like with youtube), then the owners/admins of the site/blog has to take responsibility only once someone informed them of those unlawful comments.

    There was a famous case in 2006 (the "Affaire radiateur"), where an agent from the french national agency for employment was jokingly asking for a terrorist attack on the agency where he was working. Admin of the forum locked the topic, and took 48 hours to delete it, after an internal discussion between the mods. This was deemed by a court to be too long, and the owner of the site was fined (only 500 euros though) for having let the liable message published for 48 hours (asking publicly for a terrorist attack is forbidden, even if it's a joke). Sorry I can't find anything in english about it.

    Libelous messages would follow the same logic. And so for Google in Italy, yeah, I'm not surprised they've been found guilty of hosting liable content, as judge said google had been made aware of this video, and didn't take it down immediately (eventhough I'm not surprised, I don't agree with it though).

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