Google's global privacy counsel, Peter Fleischer, and three other Google executives face the prospect of being jailed for a video that was uploaded to Google Video's Italian site on Sept. 8, 2006. The maximum sentence is 36 months.According to a post published by Tracey Bentley of the International Association of Privacy Professionals, the video depicts four high school boys in a classroom in Turin, Italy, taunting another boy with Down syndrome.
Under EU legislation incorporated into Italian law in 2003, Internet service providers are not responsible for monitoring third-party content on their sites, but are required to remove content considered offensive if they receive a complaint about it. Between Nov. 6 and 7, 2006, Google received two separate requests for the removal of the video -- one from a user, and one from the Italian Interior Ministry, the authority responsible for investigating Internet-related crimes. Google removed the video on Nov. 7, 2006, within 24 hours of receiving the requests.
Despite Google's removal of the clip, Milan's public prosecutor is going after Google's executives for allowing the clip to be posted.
The prosecutor, Francesco Cajani, is prosecuting Google as an ISP. Unlike in the United States, ISPs in Italy are responsible for third-party content on their sites, rules similar to those that govern newspapers and television stations in Italy.
Google disagrees with this. A Google spokesperson told Bentley, "We cannot agree with the concept that a tool can be blamed for the use that is made of it."
In this instance, Google is right. It's simply not feasible to police every piece of content put on the Internet for offensiveness. As long as Google was responsive to complaints, its employees should not be punished for the actions of a few high school jerks.
Those youths, incidentally, already have been prosecuted for their actions, Bentley's post says.
Hope that Google doesn't lose, because if it does, Italians will lose, too. No sensible company in Italy will want to risk allowing people to post their own content.