Three Google executives have been criminally convicted, of breaking privacy laws, in an Italian court.
The decision was about a case of a video, uploaded to and available on YouTube, showing an autistic teenager being bullied.
This guilty verdict is being lauded by some as what Google had coming, and as a dangerous precedent by others. There are vigorous discussions going on in the media and among the webmaster community (see references below), and there are supporters on both sides of the argument.
Those concerned about the chilling effect of this ruling are citing the crippling impact the process of approving every user-generated post will have on the websites that rely on such material. For example, if digg.com was to be forced to approve every submission and comment manually, it might become overwhelming for the organization and eventually result in its demise.
At the same time, YouTube, Digg, and other similar services should not be above the law; however, they should also not be singled out simply because they have deep pockets or are prominent enough to make a good example.
As always, good laws and regulations strike a good balance between providing protection and not stifling business and creativity. With this in mind, the laws should not only target the corporations, hosts, or service providers but also the individuals who use the service and upload material that offends a law. This does not mean that the corporations should not be held responsible, but it also does not mean that they should be forced to manually review and approve every piece of user-generated content that is posted on their site.
Regardless of the different positions being taken about this ruling, it is generating a healthy debate about privacy laws and the responsibility of individuals and corporations when it comes to user-generated content.
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