Blog Post

Google Will Appeal Execs’ Conviction; Italian Ruling Complicates Upload Culture

It’s rare that calm, measured Google (NSDQ: GOOG) uses animated language in matters of corporate strategy. But, in a blog post, it says an Italian court’s sentencing of three of its execs to suspended jail terms is “astonishing” and “outrageous“.

The case, as we have reported before, concerned a video uploaded to Google Video that showed a Turin schoolchild being bullied for having Down syndrome. Google removed the video after an advocacy group, Vivi Down, alerted it – but a public prosecutor indicted Google’s chief legal officer, former CFO, global privacy counsel and a senior product marketing manager.

They were today acquitted on defamation charges but three were convicted on charges of violating the schoolchild’s privacy, and received six-month sentences, suspended, AP reports.

Google is hopping mad. “We will appeal this astonishing decision because the Google employees on trial had nothing to do with the video in question,” writes its deputy legal counsel Matt Sucherman. “It is outrageous that they have been subjected to a trial at all.”

But the ruling poses a big philosophical challenge to web services that let anyone upload content, contradicting the argument – routinely offered to lawmakers by Google – that they are merely the platforms for, not the owners of, such material…

“Common sense dictates that only the person who films and uploads a video to a hosting platform could take the steps necessary to protect the privacy and obtain the consent of the people they are filming,” Sucherman writes. “European Union law was drafted specifically to give hosting providers a safe harbor from liability so long as they remove illegal content once they are notified of its existence.

“The belief, rightly in our opinion, was that a notice and take down regime of this kind would help creativity flourish and support free speech while protecting personal privacy. If that principle is swept aside and sites like Blogger, YouTube and indeed every social network and any community bulletin board, are held responsible for vetting every single piece of content that is uploaded to them