Italy convicts 3 Google execs in abuse video case

By | February 25, 2010

Italy convicts 3 Google execs in abuse video case

It seems that when it comes to letting the Web be the Web, it could be the United States against the world.

An Italian judge on Wednesday held three Google executives criminally responsible for an online video of an autistic teenager being bullied — a verdict that raises concerns that the Internet giant, and others like it, may be forced to police their content in Italy, and even beyond.

The reaction to the verdict in the United States was swift and nearly unanimous in its condemnation of a dangerous precedent experts said threatens the principle of a free and open Internet.

However, Milan Prosecutor Alfredo Robledo reflected a European concern with privacy when he expressed satisfaction with a decision he said protected a fundamental right, putting the interests of an individual before those of a business.

“This is the big principal affirmed by this verdict,” Robledo said. “It is fundamental, because a person’s identity is a primary good. If we give that up, anything can happen and that is not OK.”

The charges stemmed from a complaint by Vivi Down, an advocacy group for people with Down syndrome that was named in the 2006 video posted on Google Video, a video-sharing service Google ran before acquiring YouTube later that year.

The footage showed an autistic student in Turin being pushed, pummeled with objects, including a pack of tissues, and insulted by classmates, who called him a “mongoloid.”

The prosecutor’s case emphasized that the video had been viewed 5,500 times over the two months it was online, when it climbed to the top of Google Italy’s “most entertaining” video list and had more than 80 comments, including users urging its removal.

Google argued that it was unaware of the offensive material and acted swiftly to remove it after being notified by authorities, taking the video down within two hours.

Those convicted of violating Italy’s privacy laws were Google’s global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer, its senior vice president and chief legal officer David Drummond and retired chief financial officer George Reyes. They were given six-month suspended sentences.

via Italy convicts 3 Google execs in abuse video case – Yahoo! News.

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