Legal madness in Milan

February 26th, 2010

Its not Milan Daaaaaarling this time.

Just reading an editorial in the analogue version of the Guardian.

On Wednesday, a Milanese court convicted three Google executives of violating privacy and gave them six-month suspended sentences. This is an analogue verdict in a digital age. If allowed to stand, it poses a serious threat to the development of the internet and to freedom of speech.

The reason being that a film had been uploaded to “their video-sharing website” of school boys teasing and bullying an autistic boy – despicable without a doubt. But, and its a very big but,

herein lies the regulatory rub. If someone used a telephone to blackmail or abuse someone else, they would be the ones guilty of crime, rather than BT or Ma Bell. Similarly, internet sites that feature user-generated content (including news sites such as the Guardian’s) have not generally been held liable for content as long as they dealt with complaints of objectionable or libellous content reasonably quickly. This is the principle that the Italian verdict overturns, with worrying implications for freedom of speech.

These are very important issues, because there are some that would welcome the opportunity to bash, and even more crush freedom of expression. Coming soon is the time when the negotiation of what type of world we can expect to live in comes centre stage as legal fights and debates unfold, utopianism replaced by dark cynicism, or the cruel hand of a court applied like a hammer into sensitive issues.

As John Naughton alluded today,

The “google 3″ are still incarcerated, but Silvio Berlusconi remains at large.

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