Thursday, 25 February 2010

Google and Italy - criminal conviction for video post

Yesterday, in a landmark ruling, Google executives were convicted for the abuse of privacy of a disabled Italian child. The boy was bullied and videoed, the video posted on YouTube in 2005, and it was viewed several thousand times over 2 months before it was notified to YouTube, who then pulled the video off the site within a day. So far, so normal. Its Notice and Take Down (NTD) - see Chapter 4 of my new book.
What is unusual is that Italian prosecutors chose to go against the E-Commerce Directive's rules on NTD and press for a prosecution of Google executives. The suspended sentences were handed out yesterday.
Reaction has been loud, centred on requirements that YouTube might have to pre-screen videos in future, which would be prohibitively expensive. But its worth considering that my blog pre-screens comments, Yahoo's Flickr site apparently pre-screens images in Germany where Google screens search results since 2002 (to avoid Neo-nazi images being displayed), and many countries are introducing laws to block even non-local content that offends against child pornography laws.
Is the E-Commerce Directive thus unraveling? Or is UK politician Tom Watson correct to state: 'This is the biggest threat to internet freedom we have seen in Europe. The only people who will support this decision are Silvio Berlusconi and the governments of China and Iran. It effectively breaks the internet in Italy'?

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