Italy Bullies Google Over Video

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A video of an autistic 17-year-old boy being bullied in a Turin classroom made it onto Google Video, and Italian authorities are furious that the content was not caught by Google staffers.

Google’s European Director of Communications and Public Affairs, Rachel Whetstone, addressed the issue of the video, which included footage of the boy being beaten by other classmates, in a Reuters report.

“There was this very disturbing video which was posted on Google Video a couple of weeks ago and we promptly took it down when we were notified,” she said. “We’ve been helping Italian police with the investigation and we’re happy to cooperate.”

A pair of Google Italy’s employees will be the embodiment of that cooperation. Prosecutors have made the unnamed pair part of the investigation.

Although Google quickly removed the video upon being alerted to its contents, that may not be enough to satisfy the authorities.

Reuters cited Education Minister Giuseppe Fioroni, who said those prosecutors were taking the right course.

Italy regulates press and TV content and holds those creators accountable for its distribution.

Fioroni believes that failing to do so with Internet content would be an unfair double standard.

A Techdirt post questioned the Italian action, calling it “ridiculous” and noting the difference between content creators and content hosts:

That would make sense if Google video actually was a system where editors actively requested articles and decided what content was published — but they don’t. They’re just a platform for hosting and viewing the content. It’s more like blaming Samsung for making the TV that someone watched some offending content on.

Nate Anderson at Ars Technica sees the issue of the Italian video and a lawsuit in France as posing similar challenges for the company:

The two cases raise an interesting question: do sites like Google Video bear an ethical responsibility to screen content before allowing it to be seen by others? Is the decision to remove offensive or illegal material only after receiving takedown requests a legitimate way to quickly build a library of content, or is it simply a cop-out?

Evidently the Google Video kerfuffle in Italy has brought the greater issue of bullying in schools into the open for a broader national debate in the country.

“Perhaps Google should be thanked?” Anderson asked.

A recent AP report said the two Googlers under investigation are legal representatives of the company’s Italian presence. AP also noted the genesis of the complaint:

The Milan investigation was sought by Vividown, an advocacy group for Downs Syndrome. Vividown was alerted to the pair of videos in early September by someone who had come across them on Google Italia’s video site.

Vividown President Edoardo Cenzi said that although Google removed the content within 12 hours after they reported its existence to authorities, the group took further action because “we don’t believe these videos should be circulated without controls.”

During the incident, the four youths who perpetrated the bullying placed a mock phone call to Vividown, and that was also caught on the video.


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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

Italy Bullies Google Over Video
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