By Larry Magid
When it comes to Internet safety, the basic advice pretty much the same 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 e-mail, 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 needs to be some commonsense 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 get in trouble. When it comes to privacy, be aware of what’s in the scene that 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 your identity. 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 other others who might be in your video. If you are taping in a public place, be sure to ask permission before including bystanders in the video and never take video of other people’s children without permission. And even then, you should think carefully about any publically posted video that depicts children.
As with anything you post on the net, think about the implications of what you are 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? Be aware that anything you post on the Internet should be considered permanent. Even if you later delete it, there is a chance that it’s been copied, forwarded or reposted. Besides, there are archives that can hang on to web material even after it’s 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 someone brings out a cell phone, they could be using it as a camera or camcorder. That’s why some health clubs ban them for use in locker rooms. I’m not saying that we need to be paranoid but 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, liable 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 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 cyber bullying are a growing problem on the Internet that 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 views that may be inappropriate for children or teens. As with all media, parental discretion is not only advised – it’s a necessary part of parenting.
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. Last month the Electronic Frontier Foundation (eff.org) 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 to at least be aware of ways you can get on the wrong side of the copyright police.