Three executives of Google have been convicted by a court in Milan, Italy over the screening of a video in 2006. The video in question was of an autistic teenager being bullied.
Peter Fleischer, David Drummond and George De Los Reyes were accused of defamation and violation of privacy. A fourth employee, Arvind Desikan, the product manager, has been acquitted.
The judge, Oscar Magi, has absolved them of defamation, but has convicted the three for violation of privacy. Each of them has received a suspended six month sentence.
Needless to say, executives at Google are enraged by this sentence, which they consider to be arbitrary and frivolous. David Drummond, the Chief Legal Officer says, “I intend to vigourously appeal this dangerous ruling. It sets a chilling precedent.”
Google further clarifies that Google and its employees had nothing to do with the harassment of the teenager, the filming or uploading of the video. If the consent of the teenager concerned was to be taken, it was the responsibility of those who uploaded the video to do so.
Google withdrew the video as soon as it was brought to their notice. They also cooperated with the authorities to identify the people who made and uploaded the video. Their responsibility ended there.
As far as censorship is concerned, it is not possible for Google to screen every video that is uploaded on their site, before it is available for public viewing, simply because of the sheer volumes involved.
If this sentence is allowed to run unquestioned, then Google claims that most sites will be liable for some violations of law. Under such circumstances, many sites may be forced to shut down, and the losers will be the general public, which derives many benefits from the services provided by the internet.