Eisner Calls for Self-Regulation of Violent Content

Internet companies offering user-generated content should actively filter violent, pornographic and copyright-infringing content, even when not required to do so by law, said Michael Eisner, former CEO of Disney and founder of Tornate Company.

Eisner, speaking at a panel at the Aspen Institute’s Forum on Communications and Society, criticized Google for refusing to remove violent videos about decapitations from Iraq from its YouTube video site.

Referring to a recent exchange at Paul Allen’s Sun Valley resort, Eisner quoted a top Google executive as saying, “I am waiting for the government to tell me what to do. You have told me what to do on pornography; you don’t want me to get involved in user-generated content.”

To this, Eisner replied: “We don’t want the government [involved.] The government’s job is to keep the government out of that. It is responsible of the GOogles and Yahoos and CEOs and managers of these sites to act responsibly, and to create the mechanics of good governance.”

But Eisner’s comments were greeted critically by other participants at the conference.

Google is “scared of people labeling them a monopoly,” said Esther Dyson, chairman of EDventure Holdings. She noted that YouTube offers its users the opportunity to vote for the content to be filtered. “I think that is the appropriate response.”

“There is a law that protects all online operators if they don’t get involved in editorial decision-making,” said Leslie Harris, executive director of the Center for Democracy and Technology. “If we simply demand that all online sites, have strong editorial control, we are turning it back into a TV model. It is the online model, and the decision needs to rest in the hands of the users.”

Eisner also said that Hollywood studios were about to release a “bill of rights” in which they identify 25 demands for “file-sharing giants,” referring to Google’s YouTube, Yahoo and others.

If their demands are not met, Eisner said, “they will do a massive Napster-type lawsuit.”