Sunday, August 04, 2013
Cyberbullying tragedy in Italy could again raise downstream liability, secondary criminal accountability, even extradition issues
Again, the concept of potential downstream liability for service provides has come up in Italy. (See a posting here Feb. 24, 2010, and also another posting that date on the International Issues blog.)
This time, Facebook could face criminal manslaughter charges in Italy after a teenage girl committed suicide after she had been cyberbullied, ad Facebook allegedly didn’t remove the offending material in time.
Facebook stands by its statements that it does remove material that violates its terms of service, but only when brought to its attention, and it is possible for that process to take some time for review on the part of staff. Facebook also says that it contacts law enforcement when actual threats or made or laws are broken, but it needs to exercise its own judgment first. It is not possible for any social media service or publishing platform (like YouTube or Blogger) to know before posting that a posting is libelous or will harass someone. (That is the basis of Section 230 in the United States.)
The Daily Beast has a detailed story here.
The UK Daily Mail has a story here.
In the US, it would be a stretch for a manslaughter charge to result against corporate executives in such circumstances, even if downstream liability was an accepted idea.
If convicted, could any executives be extradited? That sounds far fetched, but it has already come up with Amanda Knox. Could foreign prosecutions against US providers or even publishers or writers become problematic in the future?
In the United States, Myspace was not prosecuted after a tragic similar case in Missouri; instead, an unsuccessful prosecution against a perpetrator (herself a parent) was launched by saying that the social media company's TOS was violated. But it is very dangerous to make violation of a company's TOS a crime, as we know from the Aaron Swartz tragedy.