Google says that it can't be held responsible for videos posted on its Youtube website

Do I like using Youtube? Sure. I think that it is valuable despite the many problems that I have with Google. Possibly if Google can't monitor defamatory videos that are put up it shouldn't let anyone put anything up.

Google, based in Mountain View, California, had said it considered the trial a threat to freedom on the Internet because it could force providers to attempt an impossible task - prescreening the thousands of hours of footage uploaded every day onto sites like YouTube.
"We will appeal this astonishing decision," Google spokesman Bill Echikson said at the courthouse. "We are deeply troubled by this decision. It attacks the principles of freedom on which the Internet was built."
Convicted of privacy violations along with Fleischer were Google's senior vice president and chief legal officer David Drummond, retired chief financial officer George Reyes. Senior product marketing manager Arvind Desikan was acquitted.
Prosecutors had insisted the case wasn't about censorship but about balancing the freedom of expression with the rights of an individual. . . .
All four executives, who were tried in absentia, denied wrongdoing. None was in any way involved with the production of the video or uploading it onto the viewing platform, but prosecutors argued that it shot to the top of a most-viewed list and should have been noticed. . . .

This is a defense: "None was in any way involved with the production of the video or uploading it onto the viewing platform"? So, they were involved in making sure that a large number of people could see the video. If someone helps another spread defamatory statements (that means spread false statements) about another person, they bear some responsibility for the damage that those false statements do. Both the person who makes the false statement and the person who helps spread those false statements should be punished for the harm that they do.



Blogger BJP said...

Are you suggesting that Google be even more aggressive about censoring its content? That's very paternalistic of you. The real problem here is that so many people watched the video, and I think it's a pretty hard sell to blame Google for the behavior of an apparently substantial segment of society. Plus, they did take the video down and clearly they were not supporting the video; the only argument is how much more they should have done. I'm very surprised that you advocate government being responsible for correcting this private company's behavior rather than letting the market punish them.

2/24/2010 1:30 PM  
Blogger Angie said...

I don't like the ruling. The video was shot in a public place - it's not like it's about copyrighted material.

2/24/2010 1:33 PM  
Blogger Brian K Miller said...

Be careful, John. You're treading on very thin ice here. If we hold service providers responsible for anything posted by users, then we institute a defacto censorship program which can be used to stifle political dissent just as easily as it can be used to stifle offensive content.

The pornographer and the hatemonger must be allowed their freedom of speech because without it, I will not have the freedom to oppose a government taking steps toward tyranny.

If Google is responsible for videos, then Blogger will be held responsible for you and I. Blogger is not responsible for opinions expressed in my blog and Google is not responsible for opinions expressed in my videos. Period. There can be no compromise on freedom of speech.

2/24/2010 7:54 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

This seems like a very uncharacteristic commentary from you... I wonder if Google should be held responsible for everything anyboody (such as yourself) says using their blogger service... Would you really want somebody over at Google screening all of your blog posts before they are published, or do you actually enjoy some of the liberty that the internet helps secure?

2/26/2010 10:54 AM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Do you all think that it is wrong to spread lies about another person? If so, does the person who helps spread those lies bear some responsibility? Is it censorship to say that the person who helps spread those lies should be careful in what lies he spreads? If you don't think that the person who helps spread the lies (indeed makes it much easier for a lot more people to spread these lies) bears some responsibility, you should explain to me why that is the case. Newspapers are responsible for false claims. Why shouldn't Google be responsible?

2/26/2010 1:41 PM  
Blogger BJP said...

The simple answer is that the difference is telling lies is a proactive action while providing a venue that some people misuse is passive facilitation -- and it's not even passive facilitation in this case because Google quickly took the video down.

But seriously, be reasonable. Is the telephone company liable for terrorists who coordinate attacks with cell phones? If they can't monitor communication which facilitates many deaths, they shouldn't let anyone communicate at all, right? If internet service providers can't monitor child pornography and the posting of defamatory videos, it shouldn't let anyone download or upload anything. If college campuses can't monitor all the flyers posted on bulletin boards in common areas, it shouldn't allow bulletin boards in common areas.

Newspapers are responsible for false claims because they proactively promote them. But even then, enforcement is very low. Google did the opposite of proactively promoting this content when it removed it as soon as it became aware of the situation.

2/26/2010 1:54 PM  

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