Skip to content

Google executives face criminal prosecution in Italy

Post categories

  1. Libel and Privacy
A group of Google lawyers and executives are facing criminal prosecution in Italy for not immediately removing from their Italian…

A group of Google lawyers and executives are facing criminal prosecution in Italy for not immediately removing from their Italian Web site a video depicting a group of teenagers teasing a boy with Downs syndrome.

David Drummond, a senior vice president; George De Los Reyes, former chief financial officer; Peter Fleischer, global privacy council; and Arvind Desikan, head of Google Video for Europe, are facing trial later this month on charges of violating Italian privacy laws, the International Herald Tribune reports.

The case stems from a three-minute cell phone video uploaded to the Italian Google video site in 2006 showing a group of teenage boys taunting a 17-year-old boy with Downs syndrome in a classroom in Turin.

The Italian prosecutors brought charges because the video remained on the Italian version of Google video for two months before Google removed it. According to Google officials, however, the video was removed immediately upon hearing a complaint, The Privacy Advisor trade publication reported.

The officials being charged had nothing to do with the posting of the video. Google video allows users to individually upload videos and Google does not monitor the videos that are put up. But under Italian law, Internet content providers are legally responsible for anything a third party posts to the Web site, according to The Privacy Advisor. By contrast, U.S. law, through Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, grants immunity to both Internet service providers and Internet content providers for material posted by third parties.

“It’s akin to prosecuting mail service employees for hate speech letters sent in the post,” a statement released by Google said. “What’s more, seeking to hold neutral platforms liable for content posted on them is a direct attack on a free, open Internet.”

If found guilty, the executives could face up to 36 months in jail, Geek.com reported.

A hearing scheduled this week in the case was postponed until Feb. 18.