Aside from the obvious – avoid pornography, hate
speech and spewing out all sorts of personal information – there are more
subtle ways to get in trouble.
By Larry Magid
When it comes to Internet safety, the basic
advice has pretty much stayed the same for years, even though the technology
keeps changing: Avoid giving out too much personal information in public
places, be very careful before getting together with people you meet online,
and never say anything on the Internet that you wouldn’t want your grandmother,
employer or your current (or future) love interest to see. That advice has long
applied to email, chat and social networking, and now it can be applied to
video-sharing sites as well.
Let me start out by saying that I’m a big fan of
video-uploading sites. I’ve seen some incredibly creative videos from people of
all ages, including children. I think it’s terrific that many kids today are
video-literate – able to communicate in a medium once reserved for highly
trained professionals with expensive equipment. It’s also a way that young and
old can have an impact on their world. Videos posted on public sites have already
had an impact on elections and public opinion. They’re good for our democracy.
Still, there need to be some common-sense rules
of conduct. Aside from the obvious – avoid pornography, hate speech and spewing
out all sorts of personal information – there are more subtle ways to run into
trouble. For instance, jeopardizing your own or other people's privacy. Be
aware of what's in the scene you’re recording: posters on your wall, photos on
a shelf, school or team t-shirts people are wearing, address signs in front of
a house or car license-plate numbers can reveal identities and locations.
Be especially conscious of videos depicting
children. Be aware of what you and others are saying on the sound track, and be
respectful of the privacy rights of people who might be in your video. If you
are taping in a public place, be sure to ask permission before including
bystanders, and never take video of other people’s children without permission.
But even then, you should think carefully about any publicly posted video
As with anything you post on the Net, think
about the implications of what you're doing – how you’re dressed and what you
are saying. Would you feel comfortable showing this video to your boss or a
potential employer, a relative or your future mother- or father-in-law?
Whatever you post is basically permanent. Even if you later delete it, there is
a chance that it has been copied, forwarded or reposted. Besides, there are
archives that hang on to Web content even after it has been taken down.
And don’t think someone needs a camcorder to
record video. Most cell phones and still cameras are also now video recorders.
Be aware that when people take out a cell phone, they could be using it as a
camera or camcorder. That’s why some health clubs ban them from use in locker
rooms. I’m not saying we should be paranoid about anything that has a lens in
it but we do need to be aware that there are cameras all around us and we need
to use those devices responsibly.
Be a good citizen. It’s your right to express
your point of view and even make fun of public officials or policies, but don’t
be mean or nasty, especially when it comes to people who aren’t in the public
eye. You can be held legally responsible if you slander, libel or defame someone.
Most video sites have terms of service that you
must adhere to. YouTube’s terms are posted in its “Code of Conduct” link
<http://www.youtube.com/t/community_guidelines> at the bottom of each
page. As you might expect, the site prohibits pornography and sexually explicit
content, and the company reports incidents of child exploitation to law
enforcement. The company also bans videos depicting dangerous or illegal acts
“like animal abuse, drug abuse, or bomb making.” There is of course “zero
tolerance” for predatory behavior, stalking and harassment as well as revealing
other people’s personal information. The company doesn’t permit hate speech or
“malicious use of stereotypes.” Crackle.com – Sony’s new incarnation of the old
Grouper – says it succinctly by banning videos that are “defamatory, vulgar,
pornographic, obscene, libelous, invasive of another's privacy, hateful, or
racially, ethnically, or otherwise objectionable.”
Kids should be warned to avoid video bullying.
Creating a video that makes fun of or ridicules another person can be extremely
hurtful. This and other forms of cyberbullying are a growing problem on the
Internet which affects many children and teens.
Parents should also be aware of what their kids
are viewing on video-sharing sites. Even though most of the major sites
prohibit pornography and gratuitous violence, there are videos that are not
suitable for younger children and there are some sites that do permit sexually
explicit or other videos that may be inappropriate for children or teens. As
with all media, parental discretion is not only advised – it’s a necessary part
All reputable video-sharing sites prohibit the unauthorized use of
copyrighted material. That of course means that you can’t rip-off segments from
TV shows or movies, but it can have broader implications, such as the use of
musical sound tracks in videos. The Electronic Frontier Foundation sued
Universal Music Publishing Group because the company successfully demanded that
YouTube remove a short video that a mother posted of her son dancing to a
Prince song. That’s a bit extreme – hence the EFF’s lawsuit – but it does
illustrate the need at least to be aware of ways you can get on the wrong side
of the copyright police