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Will Italian courts ruin social media?

2 min read

Social Media

In many ways, social media can make the Web feel a bit smaller. Instead of spending hours on faceless corporate Web sites, I’m chatting with old friends and making new ones, all on my own personal landing pages.

Social networks do such a good job of shrinking the Internet down to my own little social circle that at times I can almost forget that the Web is worldwide. Almost.

Decisions such as the one handed down by an Italian judge this week, which served as the lead story in today’s SmartBrief on Social Media, are a painful reminder of the challenges that a global Web represents. Web sites, content producers and Internet service providers aren’t just playing by one set of rules. There are conceivably as many standards at work as there are nations with courts to rule on them. When your business decides to engage your customers on a social platform, you’re not just staying in your own backyard. You’re potentially rubbing up against scores of legal and cultural boundaries.

Google is acting as if the Italian judge’s ruling against it in a privacy-violation case means the end of the social Web.  Its argument is that the Italian decision means companies need to vet content for before it is posted — instead of responding to takedown notices later. That standard may make some companies think twice about allowing users to post content at all, they argue.

My guess is that it might just mean that social networks will need to rethink how they do business in Italy. This isn’t great news if your business is reliant on traffic from Italian social-media users, but it’s unclear how large an impact the decision will have in other places. Regardless of how this plays, the incident is a great reminder of the need to think of business in a global context — even if your company isn’t closing international deals quite yet.

What does the Italian decision mean for Google? For other social-media companies? For users?

Image credit, kuzma, via iStock