Sunday, March 07, 2010

Will Italy's Conviction of Google Execs Stick?

Will Italy's Conviction of Google Execs Stick?
Citizen Media Legal Project
March 2nd, 2010 by Arthur Bright

I've no doubt that CMLP blog readers, fellow netizens that you are, are well aware of an Italian court's conviction last week of three Google executives for invasion of privacy of an Italian teenager.

(In case you missed the story, here it is in short: the teenager (who either suffered from Down's syndrome or autism; reports differ) was filmed by four other teens who were bullying him, and the bullies posted the video on YouTube. Google promptly removed the video after receiving a formal complaint. Italian authorities then criminally prosecuted four Google execs for defamation and invasion of privacy. Last week, the Italian court found three of the execs guilty of invasion of privacy; the defamation charges were dropped against all four. More back-story can be found in my 2008 post when the possibility of charges was first announced.)

Of course, Google is apoplectic. Much of the rest of the media world is too: Mathew Ingram of rounds up:

The Wall Street Journal called it “madness,” and suggested it was “crazy, even for Italy,” while the Inquirer called it “a blow against common sense and Internet freedom.” Danny O’Brien of the Electronic Frontier Foundation called it “a threat to the Internet,” and the National Post said it suggested that “Fascism is alive and well.”

And that doesn't include Anna Masera's commentary on The Guardian's website, where she warns that "today Italy is a little bit more Chinese"—in the online oppression sense, of course.

So the vast majority of the responses have been damning of the Italian judge's verdict, and Google has said they're going to appeal. John Naughton writes for The Observer that:

[I]t's likely that they will be vindicated because even if the Italian appeal fails, there is always the possibility of recourse to the European Court in Strasbourg, which will take the view that European Union law, as currently drafted, appears to give hosting providers a safe harbour from liability so long as they remove illegal content once they are notified of its existence...

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