Google Executives Convicted Over Online Video

Contributing Editor

Google convictionIt has not been a good week for Google. The company faces an EU antitrust inquiry and now an Italian court has convicted three employees of privacy violations.

The case centers around a video clip of an 8 year-old autistic school pupil being bullied, beaten and verbally abused which was posted to Google Video on September 8, 2006. The clip remained online until November 7, 2006, but Google states:

The video was totally reprehensible and we took it down within hours of being notified by the Italian police. We also worked with the local police to help identify the person responsible for uploading it and she was subsequently sentenced to 10 months community service by a court in Turin, as were several other classmates who were also involved.

Although this would normally be the end of Google’s involvement, a public prosecutor in Milan decided to indict four Google executives — even though none were aware of the video’s existence until after it was removed. Peter Fleischer, David Drummond, and George De Los Reyes (who left the company in 2008) each received a suspended 6-month sentence for failure to comply with Italian privacy code. The last employee, Arvind Desikan, was acquitted. All four were found not guilty of criminal defamation.

The case has serious implications. The official Google blog post states:

It attacks the very principles of freedom on which the Internet is built. Common sense dictates that only the person who films and uploads a video to a hosting platform could take the steps necessary to protect the privacy and obtain the consent of the people they are filming.

If sites like Blogger, YouTube and indeed every social network and any community bulletin board, are held responsible for vetting every single piece of content that is uploaded to them — every piece of text, every photo, every file, every video — then the Web as we know it will cease to exist, and many of the economic, social, political and technological benefits it brings could disappear.

Fortunately, the case has attracted widespread condemnation within Italy, Europe and throughout the world.

The victim in the video deserves sympathy, but Google is no more responsible for the clip than the post office would be for delivering hate mail. The company has announced they will appeal, but it’s ludicrous that the case progressed this far.

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  • Chris McKee

    From the country that still has ID cards brought in by the dictators that ran it; we present, backwards abusive usage of the law to indict and criminalise innocent men for breaking laws they could never have been aware to have been breaking…
    Insane

  • http://www.tyssendesign.com.au Tyssen

    Yep, that’s completely ridiculous. :/

  • W2ttsy

    Hopefully someone gets sued over this. Stupid legal action like this not only creates dangerous precedents, but now 3 people have undeserved criminal records tarnishing their name. I’d be rife with anger if I coped a record (a suspended sentence is still a recorded sentence) because I was affiliated with the company.. I feel sorry for George De Los Reyes as he doesnt even work there… How the hell can he even be considered accountable when he wasnt even at the company? far out, how can logic be defied like this is beyond me… this is pretty much the equivalent of the mcdonalds coffee fiasco… now all youtube videos will have to say “caution: contents extremely invasive”

  • http://www.lopsica.com BerislavLopac

    That’s Italy for you. Nobody really takes them seriously…

  • http://htmlblox.com samanime

    That’s beyond ridiculous. Hopefully they’ll win their appeal and that’ll be the end of it. If they don’t, it could be very damaging to just about anything that allows input from the public.

  • ricktheartist

    Simple. Facebook, YouTube, and every other content hosting, social networking site should block Italian IP addresses in their firewalls. Make it publicly known that this was done on purpose and why. When the correct Italian person cannot get their kid’s Facebook updates, they will change whatever asinine verbiage Italy has in its privacy law that allowed for such a judgement.

  • adwords donater

    For once I side with Google.The whole internet is basically corrupt.People put anything and everything on the net.Going after Google over a video and not locking up these so called home business Guru’s that have ruined the integrity of the net is rediculous.