Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Google execs face criminal charges over disabled teen abuse video

IAPP is reporting that four Google executives are facing charges in an Italian court relating to a video of a group of teenagers bullying another teenager who was disabled.
"The executives face charges of defamation and failure to exercise control over personal data. They follow a two-year investigation by Italian authorities into footage uploaded onto Google Video that showed a disabled teen being disparaged by peers. Google's Paris-based Global Privacy Counsel Peter Fleischer, Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer David Drummond, former Chief Financial Officer George Reyes, and a former London-based Google Video executive were charged. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 36 months.

It is believed to be the first criminal sanction ever pursued against a privacy professional for his company's actions...

The video that sparked the investigation was captured in a Turin classroom. Four high school boys were recorded taunting a young man with Down syndrome, and hitting the 17-year-old with a tissue box. One of the boys uploaded the footage to Google Video's Italian site on September 8, 2006...

According to Google, more than 200,000 videos are uploaded to Google Video each day. 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 November 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 November 7, 2006, within 24 hours of receiving the requests. "

The Italian prosecutor is basing his case on a law which says content providers are responsible for 3rd party content. However this case turns out Italy loses. A conviction will presumably lead to Google blocking access from Italian IP addresses and an acquittal leaves the authorities (though possibly not the prosecutor, who would presumably be riding the wave of Giuseppe Public's moral outrage) looking less-than-sensible for having pursued the case in the first place.

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