An Italian judge has held three Google executives responsible for the content of a site picked up and made accessible through Google. This is a threat to us all. 20 hrs of video are uploaded on to Google every hour, so if this ruling stands, Google will have to employ increasingly large numbers of people to monitor web content. Or screen out most web content. Most bloggers have the same problem. This is wrong and will kill the Internet as we know it. The judge seems to think Google is not just an instrument of search, but akin to an edited newspaper, or one of Berlusconi’s TV channels.
In Milan, Judge Oscar Magi sentenced the Google executives in absentia to six-month suspended sentences for violation of privacy. Prosecutors said Google did not act fast enough to remove from the site a widely viewed video posted in 2006 showing a group of teenage boys harassing an autistic boy.
But Judge Magi, who has 90 days to issue his reasoning, cleared the Google executives of defamation charges. The three were Peter Fleischer, chief privacy counsel; David Drummond, senior vice president and chief legal officer; and George Reyes, a former chief financial officer. A fourth defendant, Arvind Desikan, charged only with defamation, was acquitted.
Internet activists and the American ambassador to Italy cried foul about the ruling, which some likened to punishing the mailman for delivering a nasty letter.
A spokesman for Google, Bill Echikson, called the ruling “astonishing” and said the company would appeal. In its blog, Google added that the ruling “attacks the very principles of freedom on which the Internet is built.”
We do not moderate comments on this blog, because we do not have the time, except for obvious spam that jumps the filters. While all sorts of attacks are made through comments, we let all that be, especially attacks on me and LIRNEasia, because we think that the nastiness is better than the sterility of a moderated blog. If more countries follow the Italian lead, we will definitely have to change our ways. Or stop blogging and start watching TV again. But that is what the Berlusconi’s of this world want us to do. So we won’t.