[IRP] [governance] If web-platforms are "criminally responsible for content that users upload" "the Web as we know it will cease to exist"

Mazzone, Giacomo mazzone
Sat Feb 27 20:16:39 EET 2010

Dear Max,
In Italy currently there is a very bad atmosphere on civil rights and freedom of expression. I'm sad to say so, but it's exactly what's happening.
In the last months various initiatives have tried to restrict in various forms the Internet freedom. Some of them have been stopped in Parliament, others have gone through, others have been promoted directly by the government, other -like in the case you pinpoint- by singles judges.
 When I say that the distance between the world of broadcasting and of the press (heavily regulated) and the world of the Internet (with zero regulation) cannot continue to be like it is Today, I'm really serious.
The need for a basic minimum set of rules become more and more a need also for Internet, in order not to be exposed to the vexations of one country, one community or a single judge.
This fact (like the many others before and the next ones that will inevitably follow) can only reinforce our unanimous belief that there is a real need for a governance of the Internet...

From: Max Senges [mailto:maxsenges at gmail.com]
Sent: mercredi, 24. f?vrier 2010 16:49
To: irp; governance; expression
Subject: [governance] If web-platforms are "criminally responsible for content that users upload" "the Web as we know it will cease to exist"

Hi IRPlers, FoE coalition & IGClers

I believe many of you have heard about the devestating result of the vividown court-case in Italy, but for those who have not please read the Google policy-blog-post<http://googlepublicpolicy.blogspot.com/2010/02/serious-threat-to-web-in-italy.html>.

It is important to stress that this is not about Google, but about Freedom of Expression online! Here is a summary:

A judge in Milan today convicted three Google executives in a case involving a reprehensible video posted to Google Video that we took down within hours of being notified by the Italian police. The video showed an autistic boy being bullied by several classmates. In essence this ruling means that employees of hosting platforms like Google Video are criminally responsible for content that users upload. We will appeal this astonishing decision because the Google employees on trial had nothing to do with the video in question.

The law in Europe -- as in the U.S. -- specifically gives hosting providers a safe harbor from liability so long as they remove illegal content once they are notified of its existence. These laws are premised on the belief that a notice and takedown regime helps creativity flourish and support free speech while protecting personal privacy.

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.

Below is some additional background on the case.  We would of course welcome any public statements you might be willing to make today expressing concern about this ruling.
It would be great if we could agree to speak up on this matter!


Some more background articles:
New York Times story on ruling:

Leslie Harris/CDT op-ed: Italy's Case Against Google is a Bad Moon Rising

Jeff Jarvis: Italy Endangers the Web

UK Member of Parliament Tom Watson: "This is the biggest threat to internet freedom we have seen in Europe.  The only people who will support this decision are Silvio Berlusconi and the governments of China and Iran. It effectively breaks the internet in Italy."

TechCrunch: Can Someone Tell this Italian Judge what YouTube is?


"The future is here. It's just not widely distributed yet."
-William Gibson


Max Senges


Mobile: 01622122755
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