Monday, November 27, 2006

Italian prosecutors investigate Google over bullying video

Italian prosecutors are, according to, investigating to Google representatives after a video of teenagers bullying an austistic classmate appeared on the Google video site.

"The two are accused of failing to check on the content of the video posted on the Internet search engine's Web site.

The video, which sparked outrage in the country, showed four teenagers beating and poking fun at a 17-year-old disabled boy in a classroom in the northern Italian city of Turin.

Prosecutors have already put the four students and a teacher under investigation. The students have also been suspended until the end of the school year.

A spokeswoman for Google in Europe said the Internet search engine was sorry for the distress caused by the video and had acted swiftly when it was informed of its content."

This is a tough situation. Would the authorities have dealt with the bullying if it had not come to light via Google? Are they dealing with it appropriately even now? How could the situation have been allowed to happen in the first place? Schools are required to have anti-bullying policies but such policies are meaningless if they are left to gather dust on the shelf without meaningful measures tackling real bullying in practice. What about the privacy of the victim, which has been compromised in this case? Michael Geist has been thinking about the challenges ubiquitous video is imposing on society

"While there are some obvious benefits that arise from the transparency and potential accountability that can come from video evidence of controversial events, the emergence of an always-on video society raises some difficult questions about the appropriate privacy-transparency balance, the ethics of posting private moments to a global audience, and the responsibility of websites that facilitate Internet video distribution...

Rather than banning the technology, we must instead begin to grapple with the implications of these changes by considering the boundaries between transparency and privacy. As our expectations of the availability of video changes, so too must our sense of the video rules of the road. "

Time to re-visit David Brin's The Transparent Society.

No comments: