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
    Parotstalk, 10 Mar 2010 @ 6:23am

    Our responsibilities

    The social media platforms of blogging and tweeting are now so second nature that even if you don’t you’ve heard about them. Along with other social media they are the real platform for the masses. Regardless of how many followers or readers you have when you tweet or blog people listen. Your message is carried out throughout the world through other peoples’ networks. Phones don’t do it, television and radio doesn’t do it.

    The truth is – at present – there is no greater medium for change and challenging change than the social media networks.

    We all know there are things that need changed in the world; senseless wars, terrorism, racial bigotry, suppression of human rights are just some of the most important. Social media gives all of us an opportunity to contribute to that. It also gives us an immense responsibility. That responsibility is to understand others cultures before we act. What may seem minor to you and I may be major to somebody else.

    Essentially the social media networks are a democracy;

    "A political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them"

    To me, in this analogy, the political system is represented by the social media platforms; the hustings, the body of people is obvious, the people who use social media and the elected people are the real movers and shakers in the system, the people with the top read blogs, the most twitter followers and so on.

    As I said social media gives us all a responsibility, regardless of how many followers or readers you or I have when we tweet or blog people listen.

    The problem with all this debate is that most people seek out and provide coverage to controversial and outrageous views. It gives them more credence than they warrant and in a weird way creditability. The more outrageous a story, blogpost or tweet the more coverage it gets, setting in motion a movement towards the "there's no smoke without fire" syndrome.

    The French law highlighted by Anonymous Coward seems fair and just to me. If you have a website / blog / forum then you have a responsibility. To me that responsibility is a heavy weight that every website / blog / forum et al. owner should carry.

    We should never prevent the publication and particularly the debate of outrageous stories. It is one of the cornerstones of free speech which many enjoy and sadly many don't and it is something that we should protect and encourage provided we act responsibly.

    In the same way that we should debate, but give no credence or credibility to outrageous and libellous articles we need to also give acceptability and praise where the opposite applies. This is something we don't. We glory in the headline, the controversy.

    We are not that much of a tabloid world are we?

    Given that we all have responsibilities there are some causes and changes that are required that we should be debating with as much fervour as we do the outrageous. They cross boundaries and cultures they are changes that will benefit everybody, wherever and whoever.

    The biggest challenge we all face is where will we be in 5, 10 or 20 years time. We live in an advancing world; advancing technology and an aging population. The single important campaign we can all contribute to; whether in the US, Japan, China, Europe or on a small isolated island in the middle of nowhere; is to challenge and take up the issue of internet accessibility and usability. To make sure that not only can we comprehend, use and interact with the technology present and future but so can everybody else regardless of ability.

    If you can debate this with at the same pitch as this "pathetic" story then we all might benefit.

    I challenge TechDirt to start a debate on this issue, find fault and "techdirt" in an area which matters and effects us all.

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