This is the interview Giusella Finocchiaro gave to Vanity Fair and which was published in issue 39/2016 of the weekly.
What laws do we have to protect us?
«Quite a few. Both of these recent incidents, for example, contain a series of civil offences that range from the violation of privacy legislation to the violation of a person’s fundamental rights. There are a number of possible offences that could be brought before a criminal court such as instigation to commit suicide, unlawful interference in a person’s private life and the handling of child-pornography material».
Who to press charges against? And how effective is it?
«Those to take action against are the authors, those who put the videos online. Then, naturally, action may also be taken against service providers, namely those companies which provide access to the Net, but only on certain conditions: they’re under no obligation to monitor in advance what’s made available online, nonetheless they’re legally required to remove contents if there’s provision to do so on the part of the judicial authority or of any other competent authority».
But can everything be blocked and for always?
«The possibility can’t be ruled out that the video has been downloaded by other users and that it keeps on circulating. Of course these other users are committing a crime as well. In practice, it’s a constant game of catch-up: in the digital dimension it’s extremely easy to even reproduce multiple copies of a message».
Should providers be given more responsibilities?
«Certainly, but not with a control system, because it’s very laborious. A mechanism to allow users to contact providers would be useful, because in this way, when they received a complaint, providers could verify and remove contents in a very short space of time».
What advice would you give to make good use of the Net?
« Never forget that when you access the Net you leave a strictly private dimension and you enter a very public one».
In Italy there is an ongoing and ever more widespread outcry on the part of traders and business people against TripAdvisor, from Federalberghi (the hoteliers’ association), which speaks of a “genuine emergency” caused by malpractice that through blackmail and the threat of fear severely disrupts the activity of Tour Operators, to the Sos albergatori association which uses the Pirtadvisor app in an attempt to flush out misleading reviews.
There are also those who have come out in open revolt against the American portal and display a decidedly blunt sign at the entrance to their premises plainly stating “TripAdvisor users not welcome”.
The problem is the subject of long-standing debate and is first and foremost legal: Decree Law 70/2003 (from the European directive 2000/31/Ce) orders that the owners of websites are not responsible for any information sent by users, unless said owners are aware that such activity or information is illegal or that although aware of such facts and following the request of the Judge they fail to act immediately to remove or to prevent access to such information.
It is for this precise reason why TripAdvisor and other similar sites are under no obligation to verify the identity of the writer or the information received. Consequently the only possible protection to be obtained is when the violation has already taken place; namely to demand removal of the review, either directly or through a lawyer and to ask for payment of damages or to sue in the case of defamation or the violation of the right to personal identity.