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Would you ever sue Google? Would you ever sue Google?
by Sofia Gkiousou
2006-10-29 10:17:05
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Greece it seems is the country of one thousand surprises. From the ludicrous law banning internet cafes that fortunately dwindled into oblivion a little while later, to the judicial proceedings against artist Gerhard Haderer for his ‘Life of Christ’ comic, it seems that the Greek state applies its policy on technology and art in a haphazard and puzzling manner.

The latest is the arrest of a Greek site administrator, Antonis Tsipropoulos. Antonis is the owner and administrator of Blogme.gr, a free information and RSS aggregation website. One of the blogs that were registered with blogme.gr allegedly published obscene / satirical content concerning a specific person. That person sued Antonis though, instead of the actual writer. Not that suing the actual writer is something that I would personally find acceptable but that is another matter altogether.

The news hit the Greek blogosphere hard and already some blogs translated a summary of the situation in English and started e-mailing it to the media. Please see below for links. I am among those translators and I think it is fair to make absolutely clear that this article is a summary translation – with a bit of personal opinion – of what I read on Antonis’ website and not something I know first hand. Since it would be difficult to actually fly to Greece and report on this I hope Ovi readers will forgive this hasty article but we felt that the story was too important not to be heard.

Antonis got a visit from the police officers of the Electronic Crime Team. His hard disk was taken and he was arrested. Under police escort his was led to the Central Security Police Station in Athens. He also stayed overnight in a detention room. The next day he was led in front of the Public Prosecutor in handcuffs. Here we should note that this is not in any way unreasonable or illegal – since civil proceedings were under way the police and the public prosecutor needed to follow a certain procedure – which they did. There is no helping the letter of the law sometimes.

Yet, it is not difficult for any user of the internet – or indeed any person who follows the news – to understand that an RSS aggregator service cannot accept responsibility for content generated by others. It’s effectively – like suing Google.

Also note that the blog with the allegedly insulting content does not only appear in blogme but in several Greek aggregators. None of those was sued apart from blogme. Antonis nevertheless stresses that he is not advocating suing every other website that includes content of links to the allegedly insulting blog.

Nevertheless the absurdity of the situation is something that nobody can fail to notice. And it seems that the Greek authorities have a history in such hasty action. There is not other logical explanation to me apart from the fact that they probably lack basic technical knowledge. Early last year a Greek artist, Dimitris Fotiou was arrested for suspected fraud.

Inspired by the then latest Greek developments illegal student transfers from one university to the other, people paying to get a job in the civil service and MPs calling in favours to secure a position for their voters he created Dirty Works Greece he created a humorous website Dirty Works Greece (DWG). This company claimed the ability to influence students’ transfers, results of the civil service entrance examinations and job offers in the civil service. It had a small history of the company, description of services and finally a form where the visitor could enter his/hers details, give a credit card number and select which service they wanted.

Dimitris Fotiou was arrested on alleged fraud. I should mention here that it took 2 minutes not only to realise that this was a hoax but also to take a look at the code and see that one’s credit card details were stored absolutely nowhere. There is no arguing with the 0s and the 1s.

Unreal? An exaggeration? Sure. But scarily true. I am sure the Greek authorities are following the law. And I am certain the Antonis will be cleared because however long or hard you argue the truth of the matter is that he cannot be held responsible for someone else in this context. But then who pays for his ridicule? Who pays for the fact that in years to come his neighbours will remember that police officers arrested him? Who pays for the days and income he lost?

And you want to know the worst part? When I read about Antonis’ arrest and the few details of the case my first thought was: “Am I in Blogme.gr?” And my second thought was: “Oh no. Have I written something offensive?” And that right there, this fearful state of mind – that I bet was not only going on in my head for a few seconds – is the saddest thing of all.

The website in question: http://www.blogme.gr

Blog articles in English:






RSS Aggregation on the subject from the Greek Blogosphere: http://monitor.vrypan.net/search?q=blogme.gr

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Rinso2006-10-29 09:33:49
Compare it with the situation when a newspaper would publish those offending text. (as a letter to the editor or so) They would at least have some explaining to do. Mainly because they have total control over what they publish. If you start using a technique where you have zero control over the content, that suddenly doesn't make you less responsible. At least it's fair that Antonis has to explain why he allowed the insulting text. The brutality in the arrest is somewhat overdone however.

Sofia2006-10-30 13:15:29
I disagree.

A newspaper chooses WHAT they print.

An aggregator automates this process.

Can Google be sued if the word 'stupid' brings up my webpage? I doubt it.

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