It's been interesting watching the politics of the online world lately at Traverse Internet Law. Google has been struggling with the Chinese government's information policies and threatening to pull out of China altogether. Google's claim, in summary, is that China does not adequately embrace the concepts of free speech. Yes, Google argues, China must change its attitude and approach about suppressing dissent and repressing criticism.
Is Google's problem really one of free speech? Or is the problem that Google, and other US bred online businesses, really don't like to follow the laws of other countries?
Do you remember the French legal actions against eBay for allowing the sale of Nazi memorabilia? Do you know about the ongoing trial of Google executives charged with criminal offenses in Italy over a video on Youtube?
Recently, Italy's largest media group sued Google for copyright infringement and wants 500 million euros in damages. The case is winding its way through the courts. In the US, Google would be shielded by laws in place for User Generated Content (the Communications Decency Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act). Those laws don't extend to Italy. And apparently to make sure Google is on the hook, new regulations proposed in the Italian parliament would create publisher liability for all user generated content, placing these sites on an even footing with television stations in terms of responsibility for the content. And that would make Google have to leave Italy for good.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. There is merit in that belief. And Google's problem is not just about the fundamental freedoms ignored in China. Google, you see, is realizing that it cannot impose its will and wisdom on the governing forces of the world. And certainly not on Italy, and its biggest media group, Mediaset, which is controlled by...
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Remember...all politics is local.