Monday, March 1, 2010

Slap on Google’s wrist

A court in Italy found three Google executives guilty of abetting a crime and gave them suspended jail sentences. Their crime consisted in allowing a few years back a video showing the harassment of an autistic students by a few callous jerks to be posted on a web service owned by Google. The verdict was met with the predictable howls of disapproval by the liberal media. An article in the Guardian argued such outright censorship placed Italy on par with China as enemies of free self-expression, and the author (bearing an Italian name) berated the country for its failure to grasp a simple truth: it can ill afford to act unfriendly to the global business community. This whole worry about the impending crackdown on internet and real-world freedom by a newly emboldened moral police strikes me as a bit overblown. I am thinking of a new billboard for Penthouse plastered all over Sofia so gross I cannot bring myself to describe it. The proud young creatives who dreamed it up will cringe if they cared to hear this, but – in all my prudishness – I’ll say it. I would not particularly object if the power to censor, if nothing else, new advertisements is vested in the hands of a powerful public body comprising the first 11 people of any cultural, educational or ideological background who are stupid enough to volunteer for the job. Speaking of advertisements, the Hilton in central Sofia have leased one side of their building as a giant screen for the projection of commercials. A friend was telling me the other day he wished he had an RPG-7 with a round of ammunition. He wanted to use it to put a nice exclamation mark to the beer ad shown most often which made his mouth water real bad each time he passed by. I reminded him violence could never, ever be a legitimate response to even the most depressing personal or social problems. I have also been trying to drill into his obtuse forehead the simple truth revealed decades ago by that great contemporary visionary, Baroness Margaret Thatcher: “There is no alternative.”