Should Social Media Be Held Accountable for User Actions?

By: Chris Crum - May 6, 2010

Update: A court document from the judge in this case has been released indicating that the for profit factor of YouTube is what makes this a crime.  A Google representative is quoted as saying:

“We are reading the full 111-page document from the judge. But as we said when the verdict was announced, this conviction attacks the very principles of freedom on which the Internet is built. If these principles are swept aside, then the Web as we know it will cease to exist, and many of the economic, social, political and technological benefits it brings could disappear. These are important points of principle, which is why we and our employees will vigorously appeal this decision.”

Original Article:
A judge in Milan, Italy has convicted three Google executives over a video uploaded to YouTube in a case, which could have serious implications for social media and ultimately, the web in general, at least in Italy. The video, uploaded back in 2006, featured a group of school kids bullying an autistic child. Google says it worked with Italian authorities to help ID the person responsible for uploading it, and the uploader and other participants from the video were sentenced to community service.

Now, in 2010, Google executives David Drummond, Peter Fleischer and George Reyes(3 out of 4 defendants) have been convicted for “failure to comply with the Italian privacy code.” They were all found not guilty of criminal defamation.

Should these Google execs be held accountable? Comment here.

“In essence this ruling means that employees of hosting platforms like Google Video are criminally responsible for content that users upload,” writes Matt Sucherman, VP and Deputy General Counsel – Europe, Middle East and Africa on the Google Blog. “We will appeal this astonishing decision because the Google employees on trial had nothing to do with the video in question.”

This is a case of a business being held accountable for user-generated content. Isn’t the entire web generated by users? What if Google’s search engine (algorithmically) indexed something illegal. Should company execs be penalized, even if they comply with authorities’ requests for removal of such content? Ask yourself these questions:

–  What if YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc. had to shut down because it couldn’t control the things users post?

– What if every blogging platform had to do the same?

– What if you went to jail for comments posted on your blog?

You’re not likely going to go to jail for comments posted on your blog, but the point is, that by allowing people to post comments on your blog, you are allowing user-generated content, that you can’t necessarily control until after it’s been posted, unless you don’t let them go live until approving them. Google is being held accountable for content that users uploaded, which was not in their control until after the fact. YouTube users upload 20 hours of video every minute, according to Google.

You can see why this case is much bigger than just the specific instance it involves. The case is subject to appeal, but if it is not overturned, what will this mean for the web? Tell us what you think.

“The video was totally reprehensible and we took it down within hours of being notified by the Italian police,” says Sucherman.

“To be clear, none of the four Googlers charged had anything to do with this video,” he says. “They did not appear in it, film it, upload it or review it. None of them know the people involved or were even aware of the video’s existence until after it was removed.”

He goes on to talk about how the case “attacks the very principles of freedom on which the Internet is built,” also mentioning that European Union law dictates that hosting providers have a safe harbor from liability as long as they remove illegal content once they are notified of its existence. “If that principle is swept aside and sites like Blogger, YouTube and indeed every social network and any community bulletin board, are held responsible for vetting every single piece of content that is uploaded to them — every piece of text, every photo, every file, every video — then the Web as we know it will cease to exist, and many of the economic, social, political and technological benefits it brings could disappear,” Sucherman says.


Ruling in Italy Could have serious implications on social media uploading and user-generated content 

If rulings such as the one against these Google execs were to become commonplace, how much do you think that would affect the social media industry? Companies like Google, Facebook, MySpace, etc. couldn’t let users upload content, which essentially means social media couldn’t exist. User-generated content couldn’t exist. How could you blog? How could you leave a status update on Facebook, or upload a family photo to Picasa? There is always the possibility that some user could make a death threat or upload child porn, so if the companies behind the services that were used to commit these crimes were held accountable, how could their businesses continue?

That’s why Google is not only upset about the ruling against its executives, but calls it a “serious threat to the web.”

Should Google (or any other site) be held responsible for content that users upload (even when said content is removed)? Share your thoughts.

Chris Crum

About the Author

Chris CrumChris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

View all posts by Chris Crum
  • NookSurfer

    Wow…the sentence they’ve received is just too extreme for the situation. It would warrant a public announcement/apology of some sort…but jail time?

  • Joe

    I think it’s absurd to punish a website owner for someone else’s content. Doing so would ruin not only social media but all viral aspects of internet marketing.

  • Joseph Mann

    This court ruling is absolutely ridiculous and just shows how the courts and politicians (in any country) are clueless when it comes to social media/user-generated content. The legal codes need to be seriously updated to join the 21st century or all of us will be the poorer for it.

  • MyCircles

    In Italy as in the US, too often there are lawsuits or criminal prosecutions that have no merit such as this one. In my humble opinion, it sounds like someone in Italy has a political agenda in mind and is trying to make an example out of the Google defendants.

    Fortunatelly for every internet user, and entrepreneur, Google has billions of dollars to spend in defending and appealing this lawsuit. In the end, I believe this will bring about some kind of unification in the EU with respects to the responsibility of the online providers, users and consumers.

    In the end, if this decision is not overturned, the real losers will be the Italian internet consumers. Any web domain can block specific traffic from accessing its content and a temporary solution that online entities can resort to is to block all traffic from Italy until this law suit is resolved. Who would then loose out? The Italian people and every Italian company that has a web presence.

  • YouKiddingMe

    If *I* were Google, I’d shut down ALL access to Google(.com,.it,gmail,etc..) services from Italy. This is JUST in case something else violated Italian law.

    Watch how fast they change their stance, especially as they are not even following EU rules.

    Let’s not EVEN get into the fact that the videos were posted before Google had even completed the purchase of YouTube! That’s ignoring the blatant stupidity of the charges to begin with!

    Totally absurd!

  • Keith

    I agree with My Circles that this sounds fishy from a legal standpoint. It would be interesting to hear more about the judge’s reasoning in making such a decision, especially given that Google cooperated with authorities in removing the video and identifying the perpetrators.

  • dwork

    I can see two possibilities – 1) Social networks simply make themselves unavailable in countries that don’t provide a safe harbor (businesses first have to protect their own interests before the interests of their users), or 2) Pay for upload, which in turn pays for reviewer jobs and eliminates “real time” uploads. That would ultimately mean the end of ALL interactive sites as we know them. Its not hard albeit onerous for webmasters of small sites to review comments before posting, but to require pre-authorization for everything posted by users is beyond ridiculous.

    Consider — classified ads, blog comments, opinions like this, community bulletin boards, Craigs List, E-Bay … Option #1 would probably be the course of least cost and least resistance, essentially eliminating access to any interactive Internet site for residents of countries that don’t protect service providers from the actions of their users.

    • Ryan Kempf

      Its Really sad the Internet could be fun and safe but some poeople choose to treat it like a back alley and LET ANYTHING GO ON IF THAT IS THE CASE is the internet really safe?????

  • kesseljunkie

    This is like something out of an Ayn Rand novel — social parenting by a/the government so absurd it’s almost impossible to believe.

    • Ryan Kempf

      integerty a lost art I think so if Social Networks want to keep their integerty and remain popular they must know what goes on on their respective Network those that let just anything on their website then they will lose popularity

  • Ryan Kempf

    Lets say you have a apartments and their are bad things going on there the Landlord should make him or herself aware of the situation least they be held accountable same way with Social networks they must keep check on things going on because they should be held accountable if and they don’t know the activity going on on their site then they are just plan irresponsible on their that

    • Guest

      Landlords do not have the right to intrude on their tenants privacy. They can not control what is going on behind closed doors and most of the time have not a clue what is going on. Why would you hold them accountable?

      The people who are doing wrong are the ones that should be held accountable. Do not take it out on the innocent ones trying to make a living!

      Social Networks are providing us with connectivity to others around the world and they can not monitor everyone out there. They are trying to earn a living and provide us a service. If someone is doing something wrong or illegal then they should be punished and not the Social Network provider!

      Human society should re-think this subject about punishing the service provider for something that someone else did wrong!

      • Ryan Kempf

        When the Police come and wish to search an apartment for drugs and the tenant or tenants are not home so the Landlord gets contacted and if he refuses to let them in he is obstructing justice don’t you think? so indeed he or she is responsible to at least some extent just like a social Network ought to be charged if they allow porn on their website just because they are not aware of it doesn’t make them innocent

    • chobiche

      So with your example of the Landlord then say the tenants are busted for having a Meth Lab…so the Landlord should be jailed as well b/c they are also accountable?

      Does that make any sense? So since the landlord maybe doesn’t own the property out right…he has a mortgage does that make the Mortgage company liable too b/c they are technically owners of the property?

      Ryan you are too far gone…you must be a socialist or something…

      • JRBeaman

        Let’s prosecute the TV manufacturers for letting buyers use it to watch illegal porn.

        Let’s prosecute the phone companies when someone makes an obscene phone call?

        Where does it end?

        This is what China is trying to do to Google.
        Maybe China has asked Italy to start the ball rolling?

  • LauraC

    To an certain extent the service providers are responsible for the type of content they allow to be uploaded, stored and served in a public domain – that should be very clear in their T&Cs, privacy policies and mission statement. HOWEVER, the individual should always be held accountable, and responsible, for his or her own behaviour. I think this will be a wake-up call to social media/UGC sites to extend their user T&Cs to indemnify themselves against legal action through user behaviour. It only takes a few to mess it up for everyone. I disagree with the precedent this ruling is setting in Europe, and the message it is sending to irresponsible individuals. When you make the corporations pay, the individuals feel even more empowered to push the boundaries further into the grey knowing they are safe from personal liability and prosecution. It’s reprehensible.

  • Steve S

    We have to understand that the internet porthole in social sites such as this are the same as what is shown on TV. If this content harms or defames the persons included in questionable videos such as these, the poster and the media that allows should be subject to character defamation or legal prosecution. When videos are showing the taunting of a limited skills or helpless person, it is easy to screen out with a review. I know two kids that have autism. It would be obvious that if someone taunted them, it would show as an abnormal situation instantly on video.

    The same should be noted for any crimes against persons caught on video.

  • Dennis Hayes

    The main problem with the web is that everyone (if they wish to be) is anonymous. Anonymity creates an environment where I can do and say what I want with no responsibility.

    If the names/email addresses of the posters were readily or easily available this kind of behavior would decrease if not disappear totally.

    • ScienceLives

      Well, in this case with Google’s help they did identify the people responsible for the video. There is no such thing as total anonymity on the internet. These kids learned that the hard way, and hopefully others will take note.

  • The Ex-pat European

    It’s the usual thing. In the US, courts stick it to big corporations because it’s popular to do so. In the rest of the world, courts stick it to US corporations because it is mega-popular to do so. This has absolutely nothing to do with the video. It is nothing but an Al Capone style shakedown of US business. It is exactly like the drunk in the bar who picks a fight with a professional boxer – he knows that if he loses, it makes the boxer look like a thug, if he wins, it makes him a hero, and if the boxer just walks away, then the boxer looks like a wimp. Heads I win, Tails you lose. It’s all about lining a few Italian pockets, while once again making America out to be the wicked capitalist exploiter.

    If you’re an American who has never lived in Europe, this will sound so bizarre that you won’t believe a word of it. If you’re a European who has never left your own country, you are probably so brainwashed by the insidious anti-American propaganda with which you are constantly bombarded that you won’t either. But every word of it is true.

    • JRBeaman

      They go after the deepest pockets.
      The kids have nothing, but Google…..

  • Guest

    This is a blatant case of attacking freedom of speech, and has become a witch hunt to punish someone, anyone! No, The google executives should NOT be punished for the actions of others. Tell the Italian’s to go after the one who posted it! If the poster breaks the law of the land, they should be held accountable, not the web site.

  • Guest

    Unfortunately people are idiots and need to be held accountable for their actions, but the “authorities” are not interested in doing their jobs, because they are lazy, media whores.

    It sounds like the Italian authorities probably caught hell for the lenient “sentence” that the bullies received and have been publicly embarrassed for their weak action in the handling of the case… So, now — in their arrogance and infinate ignorance — they feel the need to take the heat off themselves and place blame elsewhere.

    Choosing someone with a very recognizable name — such as Google — will get the Italian media whores plenty of attention… however… in reality, all they did was draw more negative attention and bad publicity to themselves for being so incredibly ignorant and stupid.

    I completely agree with YouKiddingMe… until Italy can grow some brains, cajones’ and common sense they should be banned.

    **Please note… this is not a bash against Italy or Italians, there are media whores who abuse their power and positions worldwide, who also do things just as stupid, however this article is about an Italian case.

  • James Dorans

    Well I agree with The Ex-pat European and Dennis Hayes 100%.

    I get what Joe is saying but the minute the video goes onto the web site it is the website’s content which would help the website’s traffic and ranking in that is right Google.

    I don’t 100% agree Google should have gotten in trouble. But for it Google should go around and sue the people that put up the video since they had execs get damages in there actions. I would sue the people that did it $300,001 part of the exec salaries plus bandwidth they used.

    Also agree with YouKiddingMe, also take off all Italian content as well.

  • Mike

    There’s a twist on an old saying that goes like this, “Hell hath no fury like a vested interest masquerading as a moral principle.”

    Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is also an Italian media mogul who sees in Google’s content and advertising a huge competitor. Check out the extent of Mr. Berlusconi’s media holdings on Wikipedia. There is little doubt among cognoscenti that Mr. Berlusconi has the Italian courts in his pocket on this ruling as he seeks to limit the competitve presence of Google in Italy.

    It is also worth noting that Italy has the lowest internet usage among western European nations.

    • Guest

      We knew there had to be some greedy, hidden agenda.

      Thank you for bringing this to light.

      Greed… the new cancer.

      • JRBeaman

        Use financial greed to get the decision reversed.

        Cut off Italy until they reverse the decision.

        All the businesses and social media users will put enough pressure
        on the courts to get it reversed. Googles loss in revenue will be
        much less expensive than the legal fees to fight it.

        Too easy, as peer pressure is stronger than any lawyer.

        • Valeria Vernon

          Unfortunately the decision will likely be reversed: I guess it was only a warning, but in the meantime, please, please do not torture your keyboard with all these clever theories

  • Rey

    Governments must stop treating us as if we were children and must also see the good that negative materials can do. For example that video once it was learned about probably generated alot of interest in auticism and I get that donations for autistic causes went up shortly after. In any case just as it is impossible for the library of congress to screen every document going into it and I bet a similar issue exists in Italy and EU, website owners and operators cannot screen everything. Besides I bet the server those things were in were not even in their country so they are doing a far fetch reach to start with.
    With almost every large website embracing social network principles and having a lot of user generated content, even government sites themselves, there is no way to stop the movement and no way to keep check on it, so execs specially high ranking execs cannot be held responsible for it. I mean thereare many government sites with user generated content, can the government hold itself responsible if there is bad material there? If the servers are in th US and the company is large and does not have a branch in the EU or that country yet the users from that country still see it, are they going to try the execs in aucencia?

    If they do this, they will have a hell of a time with anarchists doing things in secret. Also imagine if I wanted to hurt Google, all I needed to do is upload a video that migh pass mustard but have a hidden few frames that break the law and they put it up and its jail time for them, how can anyone be thorough enough with filters, even if it was possible? It would be great to have these laws because if you do not like someone get them to accept bad material and put them in jail!!!!!!!

  • James Dorans

    Well with this Law Suite Google now has to be more defensive. You are right but privacy hurt them this time.

  • Jeremy

    I’m confused. If the Google employees have been found guilty of a privacy violation, does that not imply that they’re in trouble for exposing the content poster? Not for the content itself? Did they release the IP and server info without a warrant from the Italian authorities?

  • Saundra

    It seems utterly ridiculous and audacious to hold social media venues accountable for user inappropriate behaviors. If the court decision favors the plaintiff, I think it would have negative and possibly devastating consequences for the web and innocent users. It is so disheartening that it seems far too often, innocent people must always suffer unpleasant and imposing consequences due to the deviant behavior of the guilty.

    It is my prayer, that being the giant of a company they are, Google will triumph in the end.

    • Valeria Vernon

      … to those who suffered instead

  • Nick Baer

    We want media to exist to promote the free flow of ideas.

    Just as we don’t want Apple to censor sexy Apps, we don’t want FOX News to be falsifying “news” and inflaming the electorate. Google, YouTube, etc. should be more pro-active in editing illegal content on their search engines. YouTube is quick to delete a video that has nudity in it, but not so for videos with hate speech, copyright infringing music (sorry, the new links to iTunes to buy the song used illegally in an uploaded video doesn’t cut it), violence, and worse.

    I think Google should be a few more of its resources towards cleaning up the garbage pail that YouTube and its search engine it. Maybe this court decision will nudge that, but Google is pretty arrogant and self-righteous, so maybe not.

    But it really serves no purpose to have such a platform for hate, violence,a nd illegal activity.

  • Guest

    Just another thought to throw in the mix. Who owns the content on a social site is it the publisher or the host ? if a publisher no longer owns their content once its up there and public surely the host has some responsibility as the owner of the content to check what they are publishing no ?

  • oiseaux

    Call me paranoid if you like, but considering who is the current Italian prime Minister and his history so far of muzzling the opposition, what better way than nobbling Google Execs and the like and trying to frighten off the conduits of protest. Mind you, it’s Italy now, Murdoch yesterday, and I have no doubt that politicians everywhere are hoping the day will come when they also can stifle dissent. Long live Internet freedom!

  • Robert

    The point of contention in this case is: the time it took for action on this invaseive and injurious video.

    The video was not only present on YouTube for 2 months, it was also one of the most frequently visited vidoes on the site. If that didn’t warrant Google staff droping in to see what it was all about, then what, pray, does?

    And no Google staff did anything until outside bodies complained. In view of the harmful nature of teh vidoe, this moral laxity on the part of Google staff is culpable.

    Google and others have invented technological means to automate their ends very well when it suits them. They can do the same for dangerous and injurious or otherwise unacceptable material on their sites any time they care to get on with it.

    It is right that the Directors were sentenced; it is ultimately their responsiblity to set their companies in good standing. At present Google’s usual show of self-righteiousness has worn thin.

  • Giuseppe Altea

    What was the judges point? What will he protect through his ruling? Who will he stop in the future on Youtube? Why are the people that provide the infrastructure for valid social communication responsible for irresponsible people? If you build a road and you use it for get from point A to point B then some else uses it to bring a criminal act from point A to point B is it the roads fault, the road builder, the road user or the road police? If you use a fork to eat with and some uses it to commit a crime then should the fork maker be held accountable, the fork owner, the fork user, or society in general for not making sure that forks are not viewed as possible weapons? These are all questions that need to discussed and OPEN communications forums and things like youtube are only as useful and SAFE as the people that are using them, only as responsible as they are, only as thoughtful as they are and only as lawful as they are. So let me get this straight what does that have to do with GOOGLE again…???

  • Robert

    User defined content which the web is build around should not have any bearing on what other people do. In a case of “” a person was accused of cheating by another person and he tried to sue the website and owner of the website and lost because the website and or owner of the website had no interaction with the person posting the blog. Websites just give the space and ability for users to be herd which is our right to speech. This is what you get when you try to do the right thing for government ie.. prosecuted for something you did not do.

  • Rockman

    The Google decision may seem extreme but highlights the game played by both social media and mainstream media; the more outrageous the content, the more traffic is generated. CNN broadcast a sniper killing a US soldier, Fox News shows vids of brutal girl fights, NBC replayed an Olympic Luger crashing to his death – in slo mo. The game is to broadcast, or facilitate the broadcast of shocking content that is only removed under threat of prosecution or negative public sentiment. The warning, “caution, some viewers may find this video disturbing” is ratings gold. Problem is media (social and mainstream) benefit from shocking content.

    Key issue is one of foreseeability and whether a duty of care exists. Few cry 1st Amendment when a hosting company is held liable for the actions of spammers or child pornographers especially when said company knows exactly what is going on. Google knows full well that UTube facilitates the dissemination of uncensored content and violation of trademarks and copyrights. In addition, Google states that any requests for takedowns of copyrighted material will be publicly displayed in an attempt to discourage copyright owners from enforcing their rights.

    Consider this, everyone. Someone takes a vid of your wife, girlfriend, sister, or mother being raped and beaten to death. The vid is uploaded to UTube where it garners a million plus views until taken down. 1st Amendment?

    The next battle? I predict Google’s location services and facial recognition apps will result in a few high profile assaults and murders (what a great way to track down that pesky chick that won’t go out with you). With social media comes social responsibility. Everyone should vet content before they use it.

  • Guest

    The case that you can’t comment under original post says it all. Anybody can defamate you on the google’s public places like youtube or blogger or buzz, but nobody can defamate google on it’s own blog. This is definitely double moral standard., one for google, the other for everybody else. In this Italy case, google workers commited criminal acts according to Millenium Digital Act, yet google claims that “they are not guilty”.

    • Marilyn

      Yes, I think Google can and should be held responsible in part with the person(s) who posted the video. Is the judge trying to send a message and use a large worldwide company as an example? Probably. While I think the possible sentence sounds harsh and perhaps a large fine would be more appropriate, a fine woud be too easily shrugged off by Google and not as impacting. For Google to say they didn’t know about the video in advance and acted responsibly by taking it off when notified…is an excuse, a cop-out and too little too late. Remember the Jenny Jones talk show case? A death occurred due to comments aired on the show. Jones and producers were “shocked and saddened” but didn’t think they were responsible. A life was taken due to someone being humiliated on the show. The outcome could have been different for the dead man and for the show…if some restraint (instead of seeking ratings) had been used. At the least, Jenny Jones’ name, the show, and the show’s producers would not have been dragged through the mud. And who knows, they may have remained on the air.

      The common response here would be…not everyone who posts to a blog or downloads a video is capable of such violence. How could anyone know in advance the outcome of John Smith in Wichita reading a blog about gardening and then going on a shooting rampage at a garden store? You can’t…and that’s the point. Because Google can not be sure of the intent of posting a video or how it will be received by the public, they should have done everything they possibly could have to avoid accusations of irresponsible behavior. They have not gone the extra mile to protect posters, viewers or themselves.

      The Google case is another of corporate greed…ignoring the right thing to do (setting standards for videos and reviewing them before posting) because they don’t want to hurt the popularity which leads to their profit margin. (Toyota?) Making decisions concerning excercising restraint as the right thing to do versus considering profit as the top priority, is out of balance in our culture today. These executives get paid the big bucks to make tough decisions. They took the easy approach…if it feels good (and puts money in my pocket) do it. Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing but responsibility comes with it…for those who post and for those who provide the opportunity.

  • Valeria Vernon

    Is your freedom of posting a disgusting image or video more important than somebody else’s suffering?

    The limit of your freedom lies where somebody else’s freedom starts which means that the web cannot be totally free as long as idiots will do what they want and make others suffer cruelly.

    Put yourself in those poor people’s shoes and try to immagine how they feel, it’s destructive.

    It was not the first time that this happened, so I think that the judges wanted to give a warning to these managers, I don’t think they’ll go to prison, but they’ll perhaps give up a small part of their huge profits to pay people so that these videos cannot reach the public.

    They say that these filters are not applied because there must be freedom. It’s only an excuse, believe me. Don’t fall in the “freedom” trap: they are using this word and you to spare money, that’s all.

  • GuestMan

    Can I sue Italy’s present government for Warcrimes of Mussolina now? THIS IS AWESOME…ITALY HAS DEEP POCKETS!

  • WebSurfer

    Maybe the time frame of response is the issue against Google but then why is it not the basis of the charges? Sites like Youtube and Facebook are a tool for others to use and the content individuals upload should be of their own ownership and responsibility. If there is something illegal posted the poster and the involved parties to the content should be held responsible.

    Lets take this back to the brick and mortar world we live in. A car accident happens on a road in Italy and the Italian government is responsible because they built the road.

    From the posts here I have read the issue comes down to a better response system for this type of content. Policies that empower site surfers and web site publishers to identify and remove along with report the content. Let us isolate the trouble makers and filter them out along with the malware developers that have used these same sites to cause thousands upon thousands of dollars of damage to companies and personal computer systems.

    The world needs the web to be a platform of freedom for growth and approaching this issue this way is destructive and irresponsible.

  • Lingerie2Order

    There is a poll here on whether Google should have pulled the video earlier. Check it out at poll pigeon:

  • Jac

    Are you sure the Google execs didn’t just refuse to pay protection money, seeing that it’s Italy and with its reputation for corruption?
    Just wondering.

    • Valeria Vernon

      Protection money? Corruption? You did better than that: Enron, WorldCom, Bernie Madoff …
      As for corruption we have the choice in Connecticut Mayors and an FBI report in 2009 that says that “financial fraud cases jumped by 42 percent in the last year”. Forty-two per cent … Don’t fill your mouth with corruption elsewhere as if you were totally innocent, have a good look at home first.

  • E. Wyatt

    No. It was the bullies that made the video and posted it that performed the act that Google was convicted for. They were guilty, not Google. Google does not have the resources to closely look at all posted materials for issues of this sort, nor the ability to decide if this was a problematic video. They can’t tell if the encounter is real or not, if the victim was autistic or not. They performed a service that should have resulted in conviction of the bullies and provided a case for a civil suit against them by the victim. The case is a perversion of the dynamics of the encounter. Are we now to feel disgusted with Google instead of the bullies?

  • Guest


  • Guest

    Did the bullying happen at a school? Why wasn’t the school sued? Do the bullies have parents?
    Then why weren’t they sued? Or the town that the incident happened in?

    Ultimately the bullies are responsible. The sooner they learn that, the better.

    This ruling is insane.

    Oops! Am I allowed to say that? Is that slandering the judge?

    It’s still insane.

  • Walter

    I am just wondering if the video had not been uploaded and become public, would the bullies been convicted for what they did?

  • Dan

    In general, no, hosts/site owners should NOT be held responsible for the content of their sites. However, if the intent of the site was to blatantly promote some illegal activity that could harm a person or property, then, there may be a case against them… even if the content of the site is entirely user generated.

    If someone was to create a site,, and encourage people to send descriptions or videos of them beating people up, then, yes, they should be held accountable for the content of such a site since they would be encouraging such activity.

    Finally, I’m not familiar with the law in Italy so I can’t comment on how/why the court there found the Google execs liable for their site’s content. Keep in mind that a lot of the freedoms and privileges we enjoy and take for granted here in the US are not universally accepted around the world.


  • fukuto

    In North America we have a statement at the beginning of charges; it goes something like this – “On such and such a date, so and so did KNOWINGLY AND WILLFULLY …”
    And that, my friends, is the key – knowingly and wilfully
    Italians have their own way of doing things …

    • Valeria Vernon

      If you grant people the right of uploading their videos for everybody to see you are also aware that someone will upload the wrong thing or will harm someone else. Nothing was done to prevent idiots from harming a poor child, NOTHING. So Google did it knowingly and willfully. Prison plus substantial damages to the poor child and his family is what these mangers deserve.

  • jrhlaser

    Absolutely not!!! If you go with that kind of thinking, car manufactures should be responsible for hit and runs, and any business would assume liability for the actions of the clients, absolutely ridiculous….when is society going to stop shifting the blame and start demanding individuals be responsible for their actions the way it used to be before the big lawyer boom.
    Lawyers have put forth this foolish notion for many years and prostitute their values (assuming they actually have some that can’t be bought or sold) to get rich shifting blame for the highest bidder, it’s about time we put to rest the notion that it is somehow someone else’s fault that you did what you did. Fact is that personal honor has been replaced by money hungry lawyers who, for a fee, will make an excuse for your aberrant behavior and try to make society pay the price for your crime in higher costs, higher liability for lawsuits (again, money for lawyers) and innocent parties being prosecuted for something that,ultimately, is an individuals responsibility.

  • Accountability

    I personally have been bashed online. A site created by crazy people defaming my character, violating copyright laws and full of made up libelous statements.

    This is all under legal investigation by law enforcement.

    BUT to be honest… GOOGLE has been a pain… refusing to take down listings from the search index – even with proof that the site if fully of copyright infringements and basically they (Google) just doesn’t seem to care…

    I may have a case legally against them once these individuals are found. (they have many aliases and even law enforcement is working to figure it out)

    My point is that Google doesn’t even follow their own rules as listed on the DMCA information on their site.

    Other search engines complied quickly to the removal requests.

    Google is a huge disappointment in my world… Love the tools they offer, just not how they have chosen to run the corporate side.

  • Guest

    This happens on a daily basis in North America…Italy just said “Not Here Its Not”

    Honestly? I’m thinking Italy has the right to ask (and wouldnt you?):

    Why was this allowed to remain on your website for so long? Also as one of the largest Corporate internet presents known to man today, how would or even could this happen? Simple… no ‘effective” website monitoring. Happenings like this ruin lifes a on a daly basis all over the world.

    I think its any huge corporation’s obligation to monitor each and every posting it receives. Mornitoring of the “Corporate Web” should be “Web Standard” for all corporate online properties and developments. Good to see the ball is rolling in Italy, take care, TH

  • Guest

    Obviously this ruling is an aberration, but there’s a simple answer. Block all access from Italian ip addresses.

    • Valeria Vernon

      So that we cannot see that there are lots of stupid people with simple answers?

    • ????? ??????, ?????? ?????

      Let’s show them that WE ARE BETTER, no retaliation, demand justice.

  • Guest

    What happens if an old-school newspaper had done the same thing as Google? Other forms of media (newspapers, radio, tv) have always been held accountable for what has been presented, but somehow web content providers are exempt from responsibility? Just become Google has made it open doesn

    • Marilyn

      Wouldn’t it be the smart thing for any owner of a website, forum, blog etc. to monitor or preview/approve an entry? I have a blog and I allow comments but I review them before posting. I don’t want profanity or off-subject comments, or someone trying to sell something. (see below) Plus, you never know anymore when some looney tune thinks it’s funny to say something stupid. I look at it as my responsibility, as well as quality control.

      Google didn’t cover their butts…they have now been bitten. Hopefully, other “no standards” or “no preview” or “no monitoring” sites will get a clue.

    • ?????? ?? ??


      You forget that newspapers, radio and tv all have an EDITOR that decides what to broadcast and what not to, the news are not released by the people as in this case, that makes the newspaper or radio or tv station responsable for the content they release to the public.

  • Paris

    This simply ludicrous ruling is the outcome of a country whose people are not yet accustomed to the Anglo-Saxon’s idea of liberty symbolized by the internet.
    We are speaking of a country founded upon the most paradoxical kind of bureaucracy and distrust towards people…

  • MarkusG

    As sick and disgusting as the video in question was (being myself a victim of vicious bullying in my youth), at the same time you can’t really go after Google or YouTube for hosting it because THEY didn’t make the content, a user did.

    Of course, if one does something criminal and posts about it (either in text or by video), then the companies that host the content should be required (under court order of course – got to keep it legal and have a paper-trail… hint, hint, Dubya Bush!!) to give investigators/prosecutors user information or whatever they have in order to track down the guilty party – less the host company be subject to an “obstruction of justice” charge.

    Problem is, it comes down to a First Amendment thing – at least for here in the United States. Problem is, with our “globalization” of information, what is protected under the First Amendment here may be illegal in another country. So the problem for all these hosts like YouTube,,, and search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo!, that make said “illegal” content available in other countries, is that they may have to come up with some kind of filtering system or hire moderators in these various countries to remove links/content from their sites that would be deemed inappropriate or illegal by their “censors” (or law enforcement agencies) – which would cost them all a fortune.

    Funny, there was a “Law And Order: SVU” episode that dealt with a website that was allowing content posted by users that lead to the death (or rape, forgot which) of someone and in the end, the website owner was convicted of facilitating the crime by allowing users to post the offensive content (and yes, it was a whole “First Amendment Rights” theme of the story!)

    It’s a double edged sword here in America. Now, our Constitutional Rights are being put to the test against the world and as in this case, what we allow here in the U.S. provides a large headache and legal battle elsewhere in the world.

    Tell me again what all this “globalization” is good for??!! I personally think we Americans were better off taking care of ourselves (produced our own goods and services, our own energy, our own food, kept manufacturing and JOBS here in The States, etc.)

    But that’s just my biased opinion!

  • revoltage

    simply and incontestably a ridiculous decision.

    if I write “Everybody should hate redheads!!” right here

    will the Italian government put Web Pro News out of business for racism? HaHA a wacky decision like this often indicates a rusty system where old conservatives need to be replaced by new people (believe me, I live in Switzerland I know what I’m talking about!)

  • Backlink Booster

    There is no way Google, let alone specific employees, should be held accountable for this. The action to publish the information in question was taken by another person, not Google.

    Holding Google responsible would be like holding a megaphone manufacturer…AND the employees who made the megaphone…responsible for somebody who used their megaphone to yell “FIRE” in a movie theater.

    This verdict is preposterous, plain and simple.

    • jon

      haha nice comparison!

    • Kaye

      I totally agree. People who post and upload information to the internet should be held accountable for their individual actions. These people know if they are doing something they should not be doing.

      Everyone who uses sites such as myspace, yahoo, youtube, ect. should not be punished because some people are idiots.

      These sites simply provide us with a place to socialize, it is up to us as individuals to do what is right.

  • adult toys for less

    The judge is being paid off by a competitor or this is a political matter. There is something else dirty going on here, th etruth will come out.

  • HanzBergmann

    … and no of course not!
    (warning contains sarcasm only in the title!)

  • CM Dummerauf

    I believe if you look at REUTER’S press release the prosecution contended that Google became neglegent for the time it took for them to respond to numerous complaints about the clip…. it is one thing not being aware of the content… understandably it would be next to impossible for Google to get a handle on all that floods in on a daily basis… but when an issue is presented, and has an ethical stand point should not the corporate who touted it’s companyto founded on the principle

  • jon

    if you ask me “what is the ONE human thing that has made the world evolve in a positive way in the past 30 years?” I would say THE INTERNET.

    the freedom of speech it naturally brings, the access to information it gives to almost everyone, the communities it has helped create, the power it gives to people, etc.!

    how can Italian justice even Dare make such a decision against the internet!? is it some kind of medieval religious movement? or are they trying to have control over what their people say and hear, like the Chinese or North Korean governments??? No truly, I’m wondering!

    I hope no other government will go in this direction! As for Italy, the only solution I see is going against this decision through the European Union (according to the EU laws, google wouldn’t have any implication)

  • Scott N

    The solution to the problem is simple. All web sites that provide user-generated content need to start blocking access to their sites from Italian IP addresses.

    This solves the initial problem of avoiding legal problems with Italy, but also when Italian citizens can no longer access much of anything interesting on the Internet, they will make sure their voices are heard, and this non-sense will stop.

    – Scott

    • Block Italy

      That such a great idea!!! I just did a search and found this website Now I’ve easily blocked IP addresses from Italy.

      Bye bye Italy.

  • Sandy

    Personally I believe all social networks to be a nuisance and waste of space. They encourage people to waste time in idle chit chat rather than doing sensible things. I have never understood myself why folk want to interact with virtual strangers. Seems to me they should get a life and a worthwhile occupation and hobby. I’d shut the whole flipping lot down if I could. More power to those who can.!

    • Mekhong Kurt

      Sandy, I agree with you to the extent that I wonder why people spend so much time sending inane messages over social platforms such as Facebood, MySpace, Twitter, and, via videos, YouTube. (“Boy, was my peach pizza ever delicious!”)

      But there are two issues I would like to mention.

      First, WebProNews is seeking our reactions to the ruling, not to the value — or lack of it — to social media. Such value was not a trial issue in the Italian court.

      Second, just because you, I, or anyone finds social media a waste of time doesn’t mean social media ought to be closed down. It happens I don’t care for opera; by your reasoning, opera halls should be closed down.

      I find online video games a complete waste of time; by your reasoning, they should be closed down.

      I don’t like pizza with anchovies; by your reasoning, they should be taken off menus.

      I don’t like rap music; by your reasoning, it should be barred.

      Do you see where I’m coming from?

    • Mekhong Kurt

      Possible offense # 1: Uploading a video that violates a law.

      Possible offense # 2: Not removing an offending video in a timely manner once notified of its presence.

      Google certainly didn’t upload the video. It claims the video was removed within hours of notification; that seems to eliminate any charge under # 2.

      Then there’s the wuestion of the Italian judge imposed Italian law in a manner inconsisten with EU guidelines, since Italy is an EU member and therefore bound by EU regulations. But that’s a fight for Italy and the EU, except that I think Google can appeal to an EU court, ultimately (after going through whatever steps exist in Italian law to seek remedy first).

      We see the law of unintended consequences at work here, I suspect. Courts in one country do look at precendents in other countries with comparable legal systems, if look informally, for precedents.

      In the U.S., we have held gun manufacturers liable for a criminal buying one of their guns then Bir Brother’s WATCHING you.”

      Then there’s the issue of differing definitions. Sure, if someone uploads a snuff video, that’s clearly out of bounds. But a video of a beautiful lady in a skimpy bikini, with all the private parts concealed, even if barely . . . well? Some will say yank it, others will say it’s not in violation other than one reviewer’s — censor’s — sensabilities.

      Right here in the US we have other ridiculous instances. Did you read about the little boy who took a toy policeman to school for show-and-tell for a session of “What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?” — and the poor kid got kicked out of school because the toy cop had a tiny plastic GUN (SHRIEK!!!) that could be removed from the holster???

      The Italian court’s decision is one more instance of Zero Tolerance, just “over there instead of over here.”

      This time . . .

    • Guest

      –I’d shut the whole flipping lot down if I could. More power to those who can.!–

      So it’s OK deciding what others can do in their free time, what hobbies are right or wrong??????

  • Guest

    I’m sure this title sounds crazy to most of you.
    But remember, there are still countries that are not so developed in a sense of democracy as USA.
    Recently a Croatian blog owner, a journalist (I won’t mention names) was convicted to pay a substantial retribution to a person whose name and integrity were attacked by one of the anonymous visitors of his blog.
    He is also going to trial and will probably be sentenced to some jail time.
    His case was presented on national tv, and to be honest I don’t know what came out of it.
    So, you see, you CAN go to jail if someone posts an inappropriate comment on your blog.
    Only not in USA. But as important and big as it is, USA is not a whole world.

  • ?????? ?????

    I think that in this case google is not responsable and the suit should be dropped.
    We should not held social media accountable for the user actions but they should help the authorities to find out who was behind the post.

    If it turns out that I am wrong we should held the government wherever you live accountable for any car accident occurred.

  • Gregg

    Social media sites should not be responsible… Espcially when they are more than willing to assist in tracking down the person(s) who uploaded information that should not have been. Social media sites have done everything within there power to keep this from happening. They scan through uploads as quickly as they can and most offer some sort of button for offensive material posted or uploaded on sites. I completely disagree with the courts and google should not be found guilty in this case. Not knowing how old the kids were who uploaded the video, but they ONLY received community service! That’s it??? In this case they should have to learn about people with handicaps and go into a program that they will learn from and assist people living with a handicap (of course supervised with their prior actions). That way they may be able to learn something from their mistakes. Now if they are truly old enough to know better (that age is hard to decide on though) then I think something a bit more than just a slap on the hand and community service should have been handed down. But they want to throw google execs into jail for something they have no control of. Plus… The article is correct! EVERYTHING on the web is user uploaded. What about porn sites and the truly disgusting sites that are allowed to be on the web. AND you can see more than most would think without having to prove you are of age. No one goes after them!

  • Guest

    I was going to visit Italy and was about to book my trip for my family. I let my 10,000.00 I was spending on hotels, food, diving and other activities an will now spend it in some other country. Italy is now considered a third word country in my opinion and my money and not buying anything made in Italy will speak louder then any words here.


    • Block Italy Website will generate a list if IP and create the file for you to block a whole country to your website. Hope all website owners follow until they rethink their third world country ways….

  • Elle Fagan

    If Google really did its best to co-operate with the law to make things right in the heinous postings, it is unfair to ask more, at this writing.

    However, that does not make Google or any other of the cyberspace giants all that innocent. “Noblesse oblige” Google’s power creates responsibility.

    Food for thought:

    If the Internet is a an entire new layer to the human stratosphere, as we feel it is, then what we are seeing here is very exciting!

    WE ARE HELPING – DOING RIGHT TO CREATE SUCH CASES, and put them through the courts – and more courts worldwide should do it and get the story into the main.

    Court proceedings CREATE DATA – and precedent to be supported or overturned. And this is the data needed to be able to do better.

    We need case data to provoke thought, create focus and talk like at this forum, and among internet authorities – and perhaps inspire the successful action to PREVENT the publication of evil data, and place the blame and punishments correctly, and thus protect the general public correctly.

    Thank you for the opportunity to post my own views on this case.

    And thanks to the others who are posting here. NOT to get theatrical about it, but you are truly helping the world with your interest and input.

    Elle Fagan

  • Guest

    Although I support Google in this matter:
    Responsibility for content is a hole in the ethics of the Giants online.

    Should Google and other cyberspace giants be happy to let their financial gain be a bit more modest, as it would be, employing the ocean of attentive and COMPETENT folk needed to carefully review content before it is published?

    The wise men say that when someone makes an ocean of money , like our internet giants, that , somehow, they are certainly “skipping stuff” – it’s the human equation- a universal fact. :-)

    Perhaps responsible content review and reporting is one of the important things being “skipped”;
    one of the responsibilities that needs to be taken up, to make it all “an honest deal”.

    But do you see the internet giants volunteering to do it ? NOT.
    Even if the Giants did take up the ethic, and be better at review before publication, some would still slip through the cracks and then:

    The law says that it would still be up the USER TO REPORT any encounter with CRIMINAL REAL CONTENT TO THE POLICE. There is an aspect of common law called “failure to report” – if we have knowledge of wrongdoing, we have a legal obligation to report or risk complicity in the act.

    Can your town afford one full-time, properly trained policeman to followup on illegal media issues resports? Maybe what every town needs – and make it official.

    If Google really did its best to co-operate with the law to make things right in the heinous postings, it is unfair to ask more.

    And thanks again for posting reading my comments.
    Elle Fagan

    • Guest

      Do the maths.

      100 hours of viewing is uploaded every minute therefore in every minute you would need 100 * 60 = 6000 minutes of review undertaken.

      Given each employee would only be active for 75% of their time (breaks, fatigue – you can only concentrate for so long) that means that YouTube would need to employ 7500 people to review uploads for each 8 hour period. Since 4 shifts would be needed (people need time off) the total number of employees would be 30,000.

      At a cost of $30,000 per year + $10,000 of extra corporate costs = $40,000 per employee the total annual costs would be


      and this doesn’t account for other overheads such as managers, machines, systems, etc., etc., etc.

      and that’s just for YouTube!!!

      GET REAL.

  • Elle Fagan

    This is the ethic at social media:

    OK….we all get to party till something bad happens. :-)
    And so , even in the most relaxed and liberal climate there are rules to keep it all free and clear.

    We do not experience them as rules, when it’s a party, but we DO expect that no one is going to ruin the party by breaking the rules.

    But, if a rule is broken the whole party falls down, at least for a minute, while the offending partygoer is forcibly removed or dunked in the toilet.

    Sometimes when a party begins to pall, the hostess thinks to go out for more pizza, or get someone to perform, or serve a new wine, to revive the sagging revelers – or even something as easy as opening a window to freshen the room.

    So maybe this is a path for evolution for Social media and content responsibility issues – better definition in “the group unconscious” of what is ok at the parties and maybe some power among the membership/fans/visitors to “go for pizza” or call for a “trial by peers” when something happens?

    Just a thought.

    Elle Fagan

  • Stella

    The 1 thing I taught all my children is “ACTIONS = CONSEQUENCES”
    In saying that I’m under NO illusions that my kids are angels, far from it, but telling them you CAN’T do this/say that only makes them push the boundries more and more..
    NO amount of red tape, shutting down sites, regulating what you can and can’t say about someone is going to stop some of these morons from pushing the boundries.
    The Governments and so called “experts” has efficiently taken what little control parents have over their children and thrown it away be giving them “rights” that they simply don’t have the mental capasity to use…..
    If the Governments and “experts” are that concerned its time they stopped pussy-footing around and actually GO after, charge and punish those responsible for some of the heinous postings and send a clear cut message that it’s NOT acceptable.
    NO excuses, NO 2nd, 3rd or 4th chances, NO passing the buck, strong>”NO ifs buts or maybes!!!!

    “ACTIONS = CONSEQUENCES”!! Do the crime! Pay the price!!

  • manwithsword

    I have heard, in some part of the world bull fight is famous some time seen this in TVs also. There will be a field fenced thoroughly to separate participant and visitors. Visitors here are safe and able to enjoy the purpose of their visit there.

    Google and other social medias are virtual fields, allowing participants and visitors but there is no safety fence present in this field. Where any one can hurt, exploit and abuse any one irrespective to the purpose of the visitors.

    Are we giving guns to the children? in any country is this legal? so far my knowledge its not.
    Gun is a physical object can cause death, where visuals can cause psychological impact.
    Until unless a responsible person is there to watch the posted contents it mean any thing can be there and not safe for all day use. Until unless we are in the mood to go porno club.

    Keeping the place safe is the responsibility of the provider. Users also having responsibility, iam not speaking about the exceptions. provider has to handle these exceptions.

    If they are not ready to take responsibility, its better to close the unstable place

    • Guest


    • Nell

      The Number one problem with society is no one wants to take responsibility for their own actions or even think that people should they want to blame someone or something else!

      It is not googles, or facebook or twitter or the social media’s responsibility, it is ours as an individual.

      If your kids are watching the wrong things on youtube, they are probably watching the wrong things on tv and in print! Whose fault is that!

      Take responsibility, monitor what your kids are doing, don’t whine that the big companies should do it!

      Google is not a foster parent! Don’t expect them to do your job!

  • Guest

    I think the decision is ridiculous. It makes the web almost unworkable and hundreds of thousands of sites will shut down if the decision is upheld.

    I think it is pathetic of people to say that sites should be responsible for what people post because they don’t want their children to see what is posted. These parents need to grow up and take responsibility for their children.

    If the site is willing to remove content immediately on request that should be good enough.

  • Pasu

    I think they are being unreal towards the google executives. No on can monitor a service which has millions of users to pin point the exact content that is being uploaded on their sites. Since they did their part in helping identify the person who uploaded the video in question, I think they did good. Laws should be put in place with the relevant authority to punish those who do such a think to discourage such instances from occurring but yet again we should not forget we leave in a society full of “Crazy” people so the law will always be broken by some.

    The user’s who do that should solemnly be responsible to the content which they upload in the social sites. I think most if not all sites usually operate on these Terms and therefore they should not lay the blame on the social sites.

  • Gin

    The charges are ridiculous and more appropriate for the times of the Inquisition. I would suggest Google shut down all services for a indeterminate time (equal to seriousness of whole charges affair?) in that country altogether- in protest. Block all access. Community service for the kids who attacked the autistic child?! this judge should be removed for such poor judgement or tested. It seems laws in Italy need to seriously get updated.

  • Andy Anderson

    Plain and simple this ruling is dangerous ground. Where does it stop, will search engines be next? I mean very few engines pull only from D-moz and other human edited directories. Could we be arrested, tried and jailed in Italy for a link submitted that contains illegal content?

    Google must challenge this. The people of Italy must challenge this as well or the result will be IP banning on all non Italian websites cutting them off from outside access to the web. No Google, No Yahoo, No MySPace, or Facebook, just local owned stuff for fear of our rights being violated by Italian law and the webmasters being held liable for content we never had our hands or eyes on. The cost to human moderate a site like YouTube on every video post is too high for even Google to afford, Italy must stop this insanity.

    Andy Anderson
    AZ Locate Search Engine

    • Paulas De Souza

      Just because it is Google does not reduce its responsibility to moderate its content. The larger it wants to be the more it needs to ensure that its content is moderated. It is the responsibility of the provider/host to ensure that such content is not uploaded. It is like saying do not hold a person who allows people to do drugs in their home accountable. The person needs to moderate the people they allow in and then their doings too, the larger the party the larger the work force employed to ensure moderation.

      Ignorantia juris non excusat – Google or any large portal cannot claim ignorance based on the usage of their social platforms, they are responsible for providing the system and moderating it. If need be employ moderators among the network people and afford them additional privileges on the portals.

      • David Fuller

        “It is like saying do not hold a person who allows people to do drugs in their home accountable.”

        Is it not more like saying you should hold a person responsible who rents a house to someone who then does drugs and when the owner finds out kicks them out?

        This ruling is a joke as is your post…. I wonder if this website owners will go to jail for that comment!

  • Lance Chambers

    I feel that the issue is that laws haven’t yet come to terms with the internet. The law in question that was used in Italy is, I’ll bet, based upon laws pertaining to print media where the editor IS responsible for everything that is printed.

    The application of these types of outmoded laws is the issue. As has been highlighted, ‘How is it possible to monitor the volume of material uploaded?” The truth of the matter is that it simply is impossible.

    However, Judges do not make laws all they can do is interpret and apply. If the law makes it illegal to publish defamatory information then it is up to the judge to find persons guilty or not guilty based upon the evidence and the laws in question.

    It appears that governments have been hesitant to make the necessary changes to the law to accommodate the internet and all it requires and this I do understand. There is no point in making laws when within a day, week or month they may be out of date and redundant. The law requires stability to operate and the internet is anything but stable. I have a strong feeling that it will be many years before we see laws starting to be promulgated to account for the internet.

    • Rob Brideson

      I have to agree with Lance’s observations here, it takes months for the legislators in any country to get out of the starting blocks, due to the petty bureaucracy that surrounds them. By the time legislation is passed, it will already be out of date because the social media and the internet in general will have moved on at a great rate of knots. The internet tends to remind us of the red tape and middle men on the make in real life. In some areas it is warranted but many other areas it really is not relevant.

      I do however feel that the subsequent conviction of the Google3 is in fact a bit harsh based on antiquated laws, but may well serve as a lesson regardless of the age of the law being used. I think what the social media companies have to take on board is that there are quite heavy censorship and discrimination laws outside of the USA beyond the usual libel and defamatory laws that need to be adhered to and if they wish to operate in those countries they need to regionalise, like many search engines, to keep within those laws, and quite rightly too.

      Most of these laws do not detract from the freedom of speech and/or information nor the subjects that we wish to talk about openly, they simply protect the vulnerable and some smart Alex’s who think they are above the law, but soon get found out and are made to pay the price (UK Parliament on expenses is a positive example of FOI). Most of these laws also bring about good common sense debate without having to resort to offending or discriminating certain sections of our communities or societies.

      I am not pro regulation of the internet but I am pro some of these massive companies that provide us with our daily internet diet looking to good common sense and actively removing the minority of contributors who are outwardly offensive and discriminating in their content. It is not about removing the user it is about removing the content and moderating future content to educate rather than penalise. After all a number of these companies actually retain user content and once posted, in some cases, it becomes the property of the channel providing the content to a mass audience.

      Simply put, if the likes of the big social media companies et al wish to show content within their channels, thus retaining that content for posterity on their server, then they do need to share some of the legal burden with the person(s) who produced it, and actively protect themselves against it.

      What’s a few more employees in each country to do this job? Nothing compared to the massive profits they make. They would be contributing more to the upturn in the global economy whilst ridding the screens of those countries who are more rigidly regulated of the most offensive material. Many users of the internet would not know what slander, discrimination or even offensive material is and perhaps it is the innocent that require protecting.

      I am an educated man and web development company owner and I struggle with it sometimes but that’s what lawyers are for. How many individuals consult a lawyer before committing their thoughts to publicly viewed textual or pictorial content? None, except for corporate blog and social network users. There is freedom of speech and there is the abuse of the right to the freedom of speech, the later of which should be protected against both by regional law and vendor self regulation.

  • Adsense Publisher

    I think tho if it was up for a while and it wasn’t removed immediately then an apology should be posted. With certain things being pretty much public domain tho I think it’s up to the users to help flag the content when it’s inappropriate so it can be removed faster.

    • Lance Chambers

      I agree with the idea that ALL social sites should have mechanisms for users to flag content.

      This could be a great tool for ‘cleaning the net’.

      Good comment. Thanks.

      I WON’T flag this one :-)

      • Rob Brideson

        This combined with a little more self regulation regionally by the social network vendors would work well. It would not take long for the really offensive content to be flagged but would require a fast reaction from the vendor.

        We would also have to be wary that some content could be flagged for malicious reasons, therefore a board of some description would need to investigate and decide on the validity of the flagging if it is not obvious.

        Whilst investigation is ongoing the post would need to be suspended but easy to reinstate should it be deemed to be non offensive.

        Either way, this would require people to oversee the process.

        • Shadow Fire Promotions, Inc.

          Flagging content never works because you are subject to the opinions of another, regardless of right, wrong, or otherwise. For example, perhaps we post about the benefits of giving up your heathen lifestyle and devoting yourself to Christ. Well, if you’re not a Christian, you take offence to that, and flag it.

          So, there was and is no real reason to flag it, as there is no hostile intent, just one opinion (and for the sake of argument, we’re going to say that it’s not a post of “you’re going to hell”, or “all other religions are blasphemous”, etc.), but because you personally CHOSE to be offended, you flagged a post that was not there to intimidate or harass any other.

          Let’s say we run a strip club and post ads looking for women to be strippers. That offends you, and you flag it. The post did not feature any nudity or indecent content, but you didn’t like it simply because of the fact that your own PERSONAL beliefs do not coincide with the poster, so you flag it.

          Those are just two reasons why flagging doesn’t work, and why USERS need to be responsible for content, not the place where the content is posted, else there be no such thing as free and open media. Your website showcasing a strip club? Nope, we don’t like it, that offends us, so you can’t host your site with us. Can’t post your men-seeking-men or women-seeking-women post because homosexuality is a sin and offends us, so we won’t let you post to our message board or post want ads.

          So, to flag content is wrong, and it should be transparent who is a poster of content on the web, or you don’t post. That way, sites on the web truly can be “just a forum” and not have to worry about being sued because you uploaded your home sex tape, or your “Best of my kicking the dog” video.

  • Guest

    Guys I somewhat feel that it is Google’s responsibility to have a control on content being posted on Google properties. If Google says that they can not control the huge amount of users then make it a private portal with limited members they can manage. You can’t just run after popularity and money all the time. I however condemn the court judgment as the executives had nothing to do with the video uploaded but at the same time there should be a system to monitor or control some fishy content. Like Google AdWords Ads, Google can put videos in Review System wherein they can take upto 24 or 48 hours to review and allow user to upload and run the video on internet.

    There has to be a moderation and control over the wild horse called WEB. If we say that it is user powered system then sooner or later people will have the freedom to post illegal and abusive content on internet which can affect an individuals life.

    Coincidentally, I read a story today morning about a teacher killing herself because her “Ex” had posted her nude pics online from her PC in gulf country. The lady thought that her reputation in society will be spoiled and she will be punished by Saudi police for uploading such content hence she decided to end her life. Now think how negative effect the “FREE”, “Un Controlable” Internet can affect someones life adversely.

    • Guest

      I agree a host/publisher should bear a given degree of responsibility for airing content and comments. To allow them shelter from legal liability is to encourage future harm production. Obviously, many viewers flagged this video and its content as illegal – yet, it appears no one responded or was assigned to attend to this aspect of viewer notice. If a company offers viewers an opportunity to flag inappropriate content, that same company has a responsibility to those who take the time to flag a given attention in the matter. Clearly, one quick look is all that an internal reviewer would have needed to recognize this clip as being “Illegal” and this situation could have been resolved quietly to everyone’s satisfaction.

  • Florida

    These Google execs aren’t being held responsible for the actions of the ones who made the video in question. They got their own convictions. they are being held responsible for their own actions. IE allowing people to post videos of this sort of activity, a separate crime in that country.

    That whole BS they use about not taking down videos until someone reports it is just BS. It didn’t even work here in the U.S. where laws are grossly stacked in favor of large businesses.

    • Guest

      Can you give us an example of how to tell if a video that is uploaded has inappropriate content through software that is monitoring uploads?

    • Nell

      I actually think that users being able to upload illegal content is a good thing. It actually helps police catch and charge individuals who are commiting crimes and then stupid enough to post it online.
      Granted once the police come across it, it needs to be taken down.

      Think about this case in Italy, These bully’s are being held accountable to their actions because the video was public. Otherwise, nothing would have happened to these bullies. Nobody would have known, or likely done anything.

      Charging the execs………… they should be thanking them that they were able to catch and prosecute these individuals because of youtube!

  • James

    Now this is crazy and it even goes against the DMCA since there is no way anyone could know what does and what does not fall under the copyright law protection. Even a rocket scientist could not keep up with that.
    It looks more like the record labels what to just shut down the Internet in hopes of increasing their sales?
    And next will be radio and TV.

    Maybe we should get rid of cars, telephones and anything else that make our lives easier.

    Oh and don’t forget speech and the first amendment just about anything you utter could be copyrighted and may cost you….

  • All4lessmedoa

    Google, Amazon, Ebay, Yahoo etc…they should all be accountable. They create these things in such a way to claim plausible deniability. In order to play ball with Ebay, Google, etc you have to do it the way they want no matter if its really legal. My point is we deal with all of them and its time that they swallow little bit of the medicine they have been dealin’ out for so long. We have been selling great phones for a long time but we often times face problems with google base and groundless claims in which action is taken without merit. Ultimately, its always reversed. In the end these large companies end up a bit arrogant. I however, do applaud China on stepping up to the plate with regard to China

    • Sue G.

      Why is Google constantly being sued? Google search results allow invasion of privacy, cyber stalking, old dead links, and slanderous false postings that they will not remove even when politely notified a dozen times. This Google company is even being sued for the name of their first phone Nexus One – they took the name from a famous sci-fi movie. Im glad Yahoo and Bing joined together this year and they never allow filthy postings like Google. Google is so rich they think they are above the law. Just search”google being sued” for huge results and cases.

  • Guest

    This is clearly another case of a company or other entity or individual being held responsible for the actions of someone else. People should be held accountable for their own actions. The execs did not record or post the video. They are not the ones at fault for its existence. The people who did it are the ones responsible. The more we allow people to be blamed for something someone else did, the weaker we are. It is just wrong, pathetic and weak and it smudges the lines between right and wrong.

  • Bless

    i think google execs should develop a software to help them filter videos uploaded by users…so that they dont need to hire too
    many employees just to check those videos uploaded to their site. but they should not be convicted by other people’s mistakes…

    • James

      A software that would work correctly, would be a miracle in its self. Goolge and YouTube have millions of videos uploaded in a short period of time.

      People should be held responsible that make a video that is breaking the terms of use.
      When you sign up to a social site you must comply with the terms of use. If a member is violating the terms of use a IP block should be used.

  • CSS Training Online

    Social media content creators are responsible in the first place of whatever information they put out there. The social media sites such as YouTube, Facebook or Twitter need to keep an eye on what users post and respond as quickly as possible whenever they are notified about some harmful information posted in their servers.
    In the case mentioned in this article I think Google as long as Google comply with the Italian authorities by providing the identity of the person who uploaded the video they should not be held responsible for any malfeasance.
    There must be more to the store than what this post has revealed otherwise they should be no case against those Google employees.

  • Aaron Garrity

    No, it’s impossible to monitor the actions of millions of submissions. Each person should be responsible for their content.

  • Webintel

    My question about this whole issue is whose privacy did they violate?

    The article states that they helped the authorities: “Google says it worked with Italian authorities to help ID the person responsible for uploading it, and the uploader and other participants from the video were sentenced to community service.”

    So has Google violated the privacy of the individuals that uploaded the video by helping the authorities?

    Or was it the ID of the person featured in the video that Google violated even though they had nothing to do with the video?

    So again, whose privacy did Google violate, and how are they to be held accountable for doing so?

  • zack

    Yes I think the service provider needs to show that they at least tried to prevent any illegal activities. So it would be safer if Google inspects the content before posting them in public views. If it was a private and secure posting such as in email…then it wouldn’t matter. The Internet isn’t like talking on a phone, so it should be treated differently. Computers are programmable tools that can be used for many evil things such as viruses, unlike dumb terminals or other locked in devices.

  • Guest

    I guess the bottom line on who should take responsibility and who should be punished would depend on motive. Why was the video uploaded? For shock value? To show that some people bully other people?

    Motive is the question to ask concerning any action an individual or group of individuals perform. And thus, judgment shall depend on that motive.

    For example: A man shoots a dog because the dog is attacting his young child. Compare this to: A man shoots a dog simply because he hates dogs.

    What should be the judgment in each case?

    YouTube and every other site that allows user created uploads can not always know the motive of why a user posts what he or she posts. I for one do not believe they should be held responsible.

  • David

    They should overturn this stupid ruling and allow common sense back into the case.
    The individuals who bullied this child and filmed it have been prosecuted and punished as indeed they should.
    Google removed the offending video so it appears the Italians have a broader agenda in deciding to prosecute Google also ?
    It would seem that operating any social networking site in Italy is risky. Providing other countries do not follow this idiotic policy then its not the end of social networking.
    However do not bank on it that they will not. Any excuse to give the internet a kick in the goolies maybe prove tempting to governments and politicians who dislike the freedom the internet provides
    to all of us to voice or share an opinion outside of their control.

  • Guest

    Just think you run a conventional business, not an internet business:
    Would you allow somebody to distribute a video to your employees or clients without having a look at it first? I guess not!
    Too many people take for granted they can do anything on the net.
    Now to Google: When Google can make a deal with the Chinese Covernement on monitoring what 1.2 billion Chinese People are placing on the net, then it’s sure possible for them to abide by Italien law and check what some 60 Million Italiens are placing on the net.
    When I read in the NY Times that the American Ambassador to Italy was “disappointed” about the ruling and that the Amerain Secretary of State finds that “free internet is a human right”, I can only say so much: “Cleanup your house first!”.
    At least I can walk on any street at night in my country without having to worry about being attacked or even killed. Free and SAVE circulation is a human right too!

  • Henry Barnett

    It is not correct to condem anyone – Youtube, Google, Ford Motor Company, Barret Firearms Manufacturing Company, the US Government, etc. for allowing their product to be used for illegal purposes.

    A fundamental flaw in the Italian decision is condemning the manufacturer and in this sense Youtube is just that. If a Ford truck is used in a hold-up condemn Ford? If a gun is used in a murder condemn the manufacturer? If the USA legally sells arms to another country that then uses them illegally, condemn the US government? If somebody mails a bomb through the UK postal system, condemn the post office?

    I think not.

    The Terms of Service (TOS) of all such companies clearly states what use/content is permitted and what is not from Youtube and Twitter to the US government and the Ford Motor Company.
    Youtube acted correctly, removed the video and helped the Italian police. The judgement is highly flawed and even could be said to be ridiculous.

    The important question should include the word “knowingly” vis-a-vis the Youtube execs and if you invite people to use or buy your product and state that it cannot be used for illegal, immoral reasons etc. then that’s OK.

    As one comment ran “It is up to us to educate our children or citizens.” If they err then condemn them not the telephone company that made a telephone that takes videos that was used to film illegal porn or a Youtube user that posted some illegal content.

    Tell me I’m wrong and I’ll give you a thousand reasons why I am not.

  • Guest

    In my view this is as ludicrous as me being convicted if someone wrote illegal of defamatory remarks about someone else on the outside wall of my house. The tool is there to be used – the police and authorities should be working to apprehend the perpetrators of the crime not the owner of the tool.

  • Guest

    I think that there is definitely a case to say that social media sites should take some responsibility for the things posted by users.

    I was recently the victim of copyright theft from my website The stolen images were displayed on Facebook. I reported them and had Facebook remove them. The thief put them back up and blocked me from viewing their page to make it more difficult for me to report them again. The images are watermarked and clearly stolen. Facebook are providing a platform for work to be displayed and are making money through advertising as a result. I believe that they should be the ones who police it to ensure that they are not, in effect, receiving stolen goods. I could take legal action against the thief, however they have no money to sue for. I believe that it would be more sensible to be able to sue the company which displays the stolen work, and makes it available for others to steal, if they do not make reasonable efforts to prevent this.

  • TechNotate

    By Google’s own admittance this Turin Torment video was removed only after receiving demands from Italian police. Do those countless viewers complaining about the illegal nature of the clip- have no merit in Google’s eyes? Or, is it that the company believed themselves safe from prosecution that they did not acknowledge the numerous viewer complaints and demands for removal?
    “European Union law dictates that hosting providers have a safe harbor from liability as long as they remove illegal content once they are notified of its existence.”

  • VeeGe

    How can anyone even think this? Site owners responsible for the ‘missteps’ of those who visit ? Makes no sense to me. P1915

  • Shay

    Easy fixed – Italy should just firewall all blogs, social media, search engines AND THE INTERNET. Their government know damn well how websites operate – perhaps they are responsible!?

  • Matt

    No Google, No Gmail, my Youtube, No Adwords for Italy.

    How long would they allow the judge’s cracked decision to stand? Weeks. I’ll bet.

  • GrowABrain

    Google should have never worked to identify anyone in that video. That’s the law in Italy they broke. The privacy of the people in the video was violated as soon as there was an investigation.
    That’s all. The video was not in question with the Italian law. Google should merely delete the videos in question and only help the authorities when ordered by a court of law (a recognized court of law) – period.
    Google’s lawyers should have warned that by helping authorities in any country could ultimately put them at legal risk.
    This is similar to the 5th amendment issues in the US – innocent people start babbling to police w/o the presence of a lawyer and can look guilty or even allow themselves to be charged for something else.

    The video was never the issue, the investigation was (albeit their authorities should have never asked Google to offer any assistance in trying to identify the people on the videos). Google should have flat out refused without some sort of court order.