Google posted on its official blog yesterday regarding the conviction of four of their employees by an Italian court. David Drummond, Arvind Desikan, Peter Fleischer and George Reyes have been charged with “criminal defamation and a failure to comply with the Italian privacy code,” related to the appearance on Google Video of footage of students bullying a 17-year-old with autism. Google’s blog continued:
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.
The search giant said that they intend to repeal the court’s decision, not simply for their employees, but for the future of internet freedom.
The events that lead to their arrest began in 2006, when students in Turin filmed themselves bullying an autistic classmate, and then uploaded the footage to Google Video. Google took the video down within hours of being notified of its contents, and says that they even helped Italian police to identify the video’s creator, who was subsequently sentenced to 10 months community service. Now, Italian courts intend to hold even the hosting platform responsible for the video, apparently against other laws enacted by the European Union.
[This decision] attacks the very principles of freedom on which the Internet is built. Common sense dictates that only the person who films and uploads a video to a hosting platform could take the steps necessary to protect the privacy and obtain the consent of the people they are filming… [If] sites like Blogger, YouTube and indeed every social network and any community bulletin board, are held responsible for vetting every single piece of content that is uploaded to them — every piece of text, every photo, every file, every video — then the Web as we know it will cease to exist, and many of the economic, social, political and technological benefits it brings could disappear.
The official Google blog post can be found here.