Saturday, April 12, 2008

Does YouTube encourage anti-social behavior for "15 Minutes of Fame"?

YouTube has drawn criticism for allowing or “encouraging” immature teens to stage fights or attacks and then post videos of them in order to become global “celebrities.”

Several female teens and a couple of males were charged as adults in Florida for a "going viral" assault and possible kidnapping or false imprisonment after such an incident. ABC has a story by David Schoetz, Andrea Canning and Johann Brady, April 11, 2008, story here.

Anick Jesdanun of the AP has a story about the legal implications here. Lawyers are saying that this doesn’t mean that YouTube or other similar sites are legally responsible. The 1996 Telecommunications Act contained a well known provision, section 230, that exempted ISP’s from downstream liability in these situations, and this laws has been broadly interpreted as applying to sites that host content posted by others. Another well known case about this law is “JuicyCampus.”

Nevertheless, sites like YouTube always have Terms of Service, and will remove content known to be illegal when they are notified. But there are complaints that YouTube has not done this, or that it is hard for non-members to notify them of dangerous, offensive or illegal material. In the UK, there was an article in July 2007 in The Observer by Anushka Asthana and David Smith “Teachers call for YouTube Ban over Cyber-Bullying,” here.

There is also legal controversy (as in JuicyCampus, as I discussed on my main blog here) whether a content facilitator incurs more legal liability by promising to remove offensive content and then not doing so. Generally, most ISP’s and content hosts say that they will not routinely “fish” for offensive or illegal content, because doing so could incur liability; they will remove content when notified by a proper procedure. The DMCA safe harbor works under such a mechanism.

One mother in Florida told NBC News, "I hate the Internet."

Electronic Frontier Foundation’s discussion of Section 230 is here.

There is even more controversy because an employee of the Dr. Phil show helped bail out one of the defendants.

New Line Cinema distributed a movie about this "snuff" issue in 2001 by John Herzfeld, "15 Minutes." And in 1999 20th Century Fox released David Fincher's "Fight Club" with Brad Pitt.

In Richmond VA, in 1988 there was a (pre-Internet) arrest and conviction (and possible life sentence) for an attempted "snuff" crime that was going to be a video for sale.

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