In September 2006 a video appeared on Google Video showing a teen with Down’s syndrome being bullied by four other teens. Two months later, after a complaint from an advocacy group, authorities in Italy asked Google to remove the video, which was done within 24 hours.
Now the posting of the video could mean up to three years in an Italian jail for Google’s global privacy counsel, Peter Fleischer, chieif legal officer David Drummond, former CFO George Reyes and another unnamed employee. The charge? Failing to protect the teenager in the video, who was 17.
The current European law says ISPs are not responsible for third-party content on their sites, but they must remove content considered offensive if someone makes a complaint.
For site owners, things can be a little murkier – just witness the copyright infringement suit against Google-owned YouTube by Viacom – and the concept of international borders become looser with global technology.
In a statement, Google said:
"As we have repeatedly made clear, our hearts go out to the victim and his family. We are pleased that as a result of our cooperation the bullies in the video have been identified and punished."
"We feel that bringing this case to court is totally wrong. It’s akin to prosecuting mail service employees for hate speech letters sent in the post."
Italian authorities argue that by even allowing the video online, the teen’s privacy was invaded, which resulted in them beginning the case last year, which named Fleischer and three other Google executives. Google has argued that it’s not legally obliged to check every video uploaded.
The case could last several months and result in the men receiving sentences of up to 36 months if found guilty.
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