In what is surely to be a serious threat to the neutrality and freedom of internet and shocking and dangerous thing for website owners and staff, a court in Italy has convicted 3 Google employees in a case, where a school girl had uploaded a video on YouTube, which showed her schoolmates bullying an autistic schoolmate. Even though YouTube not only took down the video, once they were informed of it, but also helped police nab the real culprit, who was later sentenced to 10 months community service.
Here is what the Official Google Blog had to say about this incidence:
In late 2006, students at a school in Turin, Italy filmed and then uploaded a video to Google Video that showed them bullying an autistic schoolmate. The video was totally reprehensible and we took it down within hours of being notified by the Italian police. We also worked with the local police to help identify the person responsible for uploading it and she was subsequently sentenced to 10 months community service by a court in Turin, as were several other classmates who were also involved. In these rare but unpleasant cases, that’s where our involvement would normally end.
But in this instance, a public prosecutor in Milan decided to indict four Google employees David Drummond, Arvind Desikan, Peter Fleischer and George Reyes (who left the company in 2008). The charges brought against them were criminal defamation and a failure to comply with the Italian privacy code. To be clear, none of the four Googlers charged had anything to do with this video. They did not appear in it, film it, upload it or review it. None of them know the people involved or were even aware of the video’s existence until after it was removed.
Nevertheless, a judge in Milan today convicted 3 of the 4 defendants – David Drummond, Peter Fleischer and George Reyes â€” for failure to comply with the Italian privacy code. All 4 were found not guilty of criminal defamation.
When will these lawmakers and prosecutors understand that by passing such judgments, they are not only raising questions about their competence, intelligence and ability to keep up with change and technology?
After all, when one can’t prosecute the camera/mobile phone manufacturer’s employee for actually producing the piece of equipment which shot that deplorable video or the network provider’s employees, which let that child get on the internet to upload the video or for that matter the school authorities, who failed miserably in protecting their pupil and failed even more by not sensitizing other kids enough, so that they would not behave in such manner; then what right do they have to prosecute employees of a company, which not only took down the video promptly, but also helped in the investigations?