Scarily a new post on the Google blog called “Serious Threat to the Web in Italy” has emerged to explain why three Google employees were convicted and charged for a crime they did not commit. The issue here was a video uploaded to Google Video in 2006 depicting an autistic student getting bullied by peers. The Italian police informed Google of situation; Google pulled the vid and helped the police figure out who uploaded it. Pretty reasonable, right? Well not quite. Instead of being thanked for and let go, four Google employees where charged with “for failure to comply with the Italian privacy code” and criminal defamation. The employees did not know the people in the video, did not remove (apparently some other employees did), and did not even know it existed until after it was removed. One of the employees left Google in 2008, all of which Google is defending. Currently under Italian law there will be no jail time for the employees since a sentence less than 3 years is typically commuted in Italy for those without a criminal record.
Google’s VP and Deputy General Counsel Matt Sucherman said the following on the issue:
“It attacks the very principles of freedom on which the Internet is built. 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. 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 – every piece of text, every photo, every file, every video – then the Web as we know it will cease to exist, and many of the economic, social, political and technological benefits it brings could disappear.”
If they don’t win this, it could be a major blow to the freedom and creativity of the Internet itself. This backwards lawsuit would mean that executives (at Google) are responsible for the content users upload, which is entirely false.