25 February 2010

Is it the end of the "personal" internet?

Have you all been reading the news articles about the three Google executives convicted of violating Italian privacy laws? This is one odd ball ruling that will hopefully be overturned on appeal.

Here’s a snippet from the New York Times.

“In Milan, Judge Oscar Magi sentenced the Google executives in absentia to six-month suspended sentences for violation of privacy. Prosecutors said Google did not act fast enough to remove from the site a widely viewed video posted in 2006 showing a group of teenage boys harassing an autistic boy.”

I have a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice, and an MBA with an emphasis in criminal justice management. Let me just say that when journalists say things like, “The verdict, though subject to appeal, could have sweeping implications worldwide for Internet freedom.” They are not kidding in the least.

Everything posted on the internet would be subject to preemptive review. Rather than holding individual users responsible for what they post on “public” sites like Google, Facebook, MySpace, etc. we would be saying there is a criminal liability attached to the hosting company to ensure nothing derogatory, inflammatory, lewd, etc. is ever posted. Currently, companies can only get in trouble if they are made aware of a violation and do nothing about it or are too slow to act. In the case of Google, they had the material removed within two hours after police notified them about its existence. That’s a very reasonable amount of time.

I personally do not think the ruling will hold. It would truly be the end of an era. Goodbye to personal blogs, free website hosting, and any sort of timely internet-based communication. There is a slippery slope argument too. It wouldn’t be too hard to imagine email getting regulated next, with every email having to be filtered and reviewed before being sent to the intended recipient(s).

I’m going to keep an eye on this one if for no other reason than to see what we learn about the judge who sentenced the Google executives (Judge Oscar Magi). Is he planning to get into politics and just looking for some free PR? It’ll be interesting to find out.


mbuck said...

Wow. Seriously? I didn't hear about this but then I'm an idiot savant. Anyway, don't they already make you agree not to post stuff when you sign up to things like facebook? So how would that make facebook or any other website responsible? Look at places like Myspace. I could see them saying that to myspace because even when you report porn or whatever, they still leave it up. But websites like Facebook or even Blogger seem fairly good at trying to rid their websites of it, but they can't look at every single thing. This is bunk if you ask me. It's sad that the autistic boy was harassed. I have an autistic daughter and that crap scares me, but I wouldn't hold any website company responsible for that. I'd hold the one who decided to post it. Personal responsibility has certainly gone out the window these days.

Feywriter said...

Yikes. Definitely something to keep an eye on.

Susanna said...

aahh!! i don't like that idea. i definitely agree with mary on this one.

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