When Google bought YouTube, lawyers and business analysts across the U.S. warned it would be swamped by lawsuits over copyright violations. Sounds scary enough–but what about facing criminal indictment for posting a violent video clip? On this basis, the Italian government has launched a criminal proceeding against Google and raided their Milan office, according to the Italian Internet anti-censorship organization ALCEI.
ALCEI’s report of the event is currently posted at the top of their Italian home page, and will soon appear on the English home page. Like the U.S.–where multiple court rulings and a clause of the DMCA protect ISPs from content sent by users–Italy has a law called Directive 31/00 that should absolve Google of responsibility for the video in question. In fact, Google had already taken action on the video (a shocking film made by teenagers documenting their own violence against a disabled person) removing it before the indictment.
ALCEI reports “a widespread concern in Italian mainstream media (and politics) about violence involving ‘minors’.” But one has to be very careful in laying blame for the social ills on videos. What if governments could order the removal of the videos that seem to pop up every week showing violence by police? Removing one violent film leaves a precedent that suppresses discussion and understanding of that violence.
Meanwhile, popular culture is awash in images of fake violence. And we have to hold back from applying research about the effect of violent TV shows on children to violent online videos. The online videos must be sought out, and therefore are likely to provoke copy-cat actions only among people already interested in such awful things. All around, the indictment of Google is a step in the wrong direction.