Milan Prosecutor Seeks To Jail Google Execs For User-Generated Video
Italian law enforcement officials are seeking jail terms for four Google executives charged with violating the country's privacy laws by allegedly allowing the hosting of an offensive video.
The Google executives are accused of criminal defamation and failing to control personal data in the case, which stems from a 2006 incident in which a high school student posted a clip of himself and three others bullying a 17-year-old with Down syndrome. The three-minute video, which went live in September, was taken down Nov. 7, after Google received complaints about it.
Last week, Milan prosecutors presented their case and also requested jail terms of up to one year for chief legal officer David Drummond, global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer and former chief financial officer George De Los Reyes, and a term of six months for Arvind Desikan, the former head of Google Video Europe. The prosecutors made the request as part of their closing arguments; none of the executives have been found guilty.
Even if convicted, the Google officials aren't likely to be imprisoned because Italian courts suspend sentences of less than three years for defendants without prior records.
Google will not officially present its case until Dec. 14, but Fleischer recently set out his defense on his blog.
"It should be obvious, but none of us Google employees had any involvement with the uploaded video. None of us produced, uploaded or reviewed it," Fleischer wrote last week on his blog.
"In the offline world, it would be like criminally prosecuting post office employees because someone mailed an inappropriate letter," he said.
Fleischer also argues that the European Union's 2000 Electronic Commerce Directive immunizes the company from liability for illegal user-generated content, provided that the sites remove the material on request. "If Google and companies like it were responsible for every piece of content on the web, the Internet as we know it today -- and all of the economic and social benefits it provides -- would disappear," he wrote.
None of the Google executives attended the trial in person last week. Fleischer wrote on his blog last week that he had been advised by counsel to absent himself from trial, and said that his co-defendants are likewise staying out of the country.