Friday, December 21, 2012

Google executives win appeal in 2006 Milan autism video case

Three Google executives have been exonerated after an Italian appeals court overturned a 2010 conviction which stated that they violated the privacy of an autistic Italian boy by allowing a video of him being bullied be posted on (now dead) Google Video (not YouTube) in 2006. The previous ruling sentenced the three to six month suspended sentences.

Reasons for the ruling will be made public in 60 days. Google policy manager Giorgia Abeltino issued the following statement after the ruling was read:
We are very happy that the earlier decision was not confirmed, and that the court of appeals recognized the innocence of our colleagues. Our thoughts are with the boy and his family for the difficult moments they have endured.
None of the three Google executives were based in Italy. They were senior vice-president and chief legal officer David Drummond, former Google Italy board member George De Los Reyes and global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer.

In 2006, four students at a Turin school uploaded a cell phone video to Google Video, showing them bullying the boy. The prosecutors accused Google of negligence, claiming that the video remained online for two months despite the fact that some Web users had already posted comments flagging the video and asking for it to be removed.

Google claimed it had removed the video as soon as it was notified and cooperated with Italian authorities to help identify the bullies and bring them to justice. Simply commenting on a video would not necessarily attract Google's attention, so the fact that some had commented and asked there for the video to be removed may not have been enough.

In addition, the compnay said that, as hosting platforms that do not create their own content, Google Video, YouTube and others cannot be held responsible for content that others upload. From a high level, this is very similar to the "Safe Harbor" DMCA exemption that protects sites against copyrighted content that their users post.

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