Google, schools, the Police and the Ministry of Youth? Don’t get lost!


A partnership between YouTube/Google Italy and the Italian Communications Police, under the patronage of the national Ministry of Youth, just entered its second year. The Italian name of this program is “Non Perdere la Bussola” (literally “don’t lose your compass”, translated here as “don’t get lost”) Its goal is to give suggestions to very young people to not get lost online:

_the "Non Perdere la Bussola" initiative teaches young people from 13 to 18 years of age how to take advantage without risks of the potential of the Web. The first edition reached 180.000 students in about 450 schools across the country... The content of the educational workshops will be: privacy protection, netiquette and proper behavior in online communities, how to report inappropriate content, cyberbullying, copyright protection._

Cool idea. With a few exceptions I’ll explain in a moment. For the record, there may very well be 180000 participants from 450 schools, but as a matter of fact I couldn’t find in the Italian Web (not even on the Police website, where I only found a project announcement) any complete list of these schools, or any feedback from those participants. Why? Let’s go back to the program content, though.

Is copying wrong? It depends…

An article on this project from italian blog NBTimes says that: “all project resources are available on a dedicated Website. Even the material of the educational workshops/seminars is available. As of January 14th, 2011, the second page contained a map meant to teach and help “safe browsing of YouTube, including some synthetic suggestions to follow in order to stay away from troubles and have fun without hassles”. Unfortunately that map has a couple of errors (only a couple, the rest is great. Page 2 of the map says, among other things:

  • respect copyright. If you aren’t the owner of some content, don’t upload it on the Internet

  • Copyright

    • Be Original! Only publish works that You created

    • Don’t publish online video with music or content protected by copyright, even if you only use partial copies

Copyright should be respected, even if the specific reasons to do it provided by the multinationals of entertainment don’t hold. Downloading everything you can “just because”, even if you don’t have any need for it, is somehow stupid, because it only strengthens the arguments of those multinationals. However, people reading those parts of the map may get a very partial, incomplete, one-sided vision of copyright, one that only advantages the industry. Just as it was already happening, here in Italy, with the EMCA project for Italian schools. I asked EMCA about 15 months ago “do you explain in this project that there is also new music that is legally downloadable for free?” but I’m still waiting for an answer.

Because that’s the point: creative works of whatever nature that are protected by copyright can be legally (re) published all right, IF the copyright holder used his or her rights just to publish those works under open licenses. Licenses like those from Creative Commons. Licenses that, incidentally, YouTube and Google know very well, since Google allows to search only for content released under such licenses. So, if you don’t want to get lost in the copyright jungle, don’t rely on maps like that.

Are denounces of hate speech also hate speech?

That YouTube Map also says: “Help us to keep YouTube clean by not publishing videos that… attack or humiliate people on the basis of their etnicity, religion, disabilities, sex, age, sexual orientation… Please report all videos that violate these guidelines”

Unfortunately that maps misses a link to an Italian blog post titled “On YouTube, you could be the censor “. Daniele Sensi is an italian blogger who, among other things, routinely monitors some Italian radio stations and denounces (by recording and posting them on his YouTube channel) shows that contain hate speech. In the post linked above, Sensi signals a serious problem that comes just from incomplete “YouTube education” of the kind one could get by relying only on advice from that YouTube Map. Namely, Sensi reports his “frustration for being forced to protect his work from the superficiality of those who should be its main users and beneficiaries”. The bold markup in the quote is mine. Personally, instead of superficiality I would have written “huge imbecility”. Because very often Sensi uploads on YouTube, but only to denounce them in public, the attacks on ethnic or religious minorities broadcast by Radio Padania, a radio station close to the Lega Nord (Northern League) party. And often he finds those videos removed because they were reported as hate speech to YouTube from clueless users who “actually believe that they are shutting down Radio Padania, when all they’re doing is to shut down who denounces their excesses”.

You may think this is already too ridiculous, but it doesn’t end here. When Italian Journalist Alessandro Giglioli knew about Sensi and tried to explain to Google how absurd this is, he gave up in despair, wondering “Who is more grotesque? Lega Nord, whose radio station broadcast speeches that should be censored as much, or more, those from Hitler; or Google, that can’t get the difference between speeches that promote violence and denounces of those speeches?” Let’s hope that in any workshop of the “Non Perdere la BUssola” project, or in any other of the same kind, everywhere, such differences will be properly explained.

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