MILAN — Italian prosecutors in Naples have opened a criminal investigation of the suicide of a 31-year-old woman who had fought unsuccessfully to have a video showing her having sex expunged from the internet.
Chief prosecutor Francesco Greco said Friday that the investigation into possible charges of instigating suicide was being coordinated with another probe based on a defamation complaint the woman brought against four individuals last year.
The woman, identified as Tiziana Cantone, killed herself on Tuesday. She was buried on Thursday, with her family launching an appeal “that Tiziana’s death not be in vain, but serve to stop this kind of mass violence.”
The suicide, along with other high-profile instances of cyberbullying, has provoked a debate in Italy about how to protect individuals, not just minors, from having material circulated on the internet without their consent. The parliament is debating legislation that would make it easier to remove unauthorized or offensive material, while also making stalking on the internet an aggravating circumstance.
According to media reports, Cantone sent the video privately to a small group of people, but it quickly went viral, with her name attached, and she became the target of insults and jokes. Her attempts to have the video removed from a series of platforms failed.
Besides the defamation complaint, Cantone also went to a civil court seeking to have the video removed for violation of privacy, but she won only a partial victory and was ordered to pay court costs of 20,000 euros ($22,300).
Italian media reported that prosecutors refused a request to act to have the video removed from websites where it appeared, saying that the video had been downloaded more than 200,000 times and would therefore be impossible to withdraw from circulation, and that there was no evidence she had asked for its removal.
The head of Italy’s privacy agency, Antonello Soro, told Sky News TG that the prosecutor had erred, because under Italian law sensitive material can be circulated only with explicit consent. Soro said this case and others illustrate that people must be educated about the dangers of circulating personal material on the web.
“The real point is why do kids, and adults, put in the web, in such an irresponsible way, their own data?” he said. “There is the conviction that the immaterial piazza is only virtual. Instead it is a real piazza” — an open public space.