Last week three Googlers in Italy were convicted to a suspended sentence after they had failed to respond quickly to an uploaded video on Youtube over a year ago which showed Italian youngsters harassing a young boy with Down Syndrom. The response around the web immediately was one of disbelieve. How could Google-employees be sentenced for something they weren’t even directly involved in? Some even came to the conclusion that the ruling was a disaster for the freedom of the web. This could change the web once and for all.
They could be right on the fact that this will change things. However, the ruling in Italy can also turn out to be a blessing in disguise. As I pointed out earlier Google is running into some cultural issues in Europe (and also China by the way). They now see that Europeans have a different take on some things than Americans do. Privacy is a big example of that. If you know Europeans the privacy-issues which now seem to be popping up every week will not come as a surprise. the New York Times analyses the problem very well. They see the clash between European privacy-demands and the US freedom of speech demands.
The fact that Googlers now are sentenced could very well trigger something which will be crucial for the future of the internet: a worldwide consensus on how the rules on the internet will have to work. (more…)