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Four Google Officials Facing Charges In Italy For Errant Video 153

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the looks-like-digging-for-deep-pockets-to-me dept.
mikesd81 writes to tell us that four Google employees may be facing charges of defamation and failure to control personal data simply because they didn't remove a video of a boy with Down's Syndrome being harassed and eventually hit over the head with a box of tissue, from Google Video. The video was posted in September of 2006 and was removed by Google within a day of receiving the initial complaints, but apparently that isn't fast enough. "Google maintains charges against the employees are unwarranted, Pancini said. Europe's E-commerce Directive exempts service providers from prescreening content before it is publicly posted, he said. Also, the video was technically uploaded to a Google server in the US, not in Italy, Pancini said. 'It was a terrible video,' Pancini said, adding that Google is concerned about the case's impact on censorship on the Internet. The defendants include David C. Drummond, a Google senior vice president, corporate development and chief legal officer. Pancini said Drummond did paperwork to create Google Italy, but has never lived in the country."
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Four Google Officials Facing Charges In Italy For Errant Video

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday November 07, 2008 @04:32PM (#25681419)
    Sometimes Youtube is like some sort of arena where the weak are abused for the mere amusement of the masses. And of course, Italians would never put up with such a vile spectacle!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 07, 2008 @05:01PM (#25681895)
      Too soon.
      • by Ifni (545998)
        Now that's funny - why'd you go and post as AC?
        • by Facegarden (967477) on Friday November 07, 2008 @05:19PM (#25682241)

          Now that's funny - why'd you go and post as AC?

          Sorry i was in a hurry and i wasn't logged in...

          Just kidding, i didn't post that. Hah. Or did i? Really i just wanted to ensure that if someone stepped up to the plate after this, it would be sufficiently confusing that one could never know if they were really the OP! Hah! Oh god, i need a life...
          -Taylor

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Also, I forgot to mention that my penis is tiny, scabby, and only aroused by Richard Simmons videos...
            -Taylor

            Sorry i am in a hurry and i don't have time to log in...

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by frosty_tsm (933163)

        (treading carefully not to invoke Godwin's Law)

        Maybe they are trying to distance themselves from past mistakes and be better as the Germans have done.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by hesaigo999ca (786966)

      I agree with you, and think that certain regulation should be implemented that mimics certain countries laws. That would be the person who shot the video, no the person who is hosting the server that let someone post the video. I am not sure(as I never read the articles) but if the person is guilty of not screening, then I don't think there should be punishment, but if there is a way to track the person who filmed the video and posted it...they are the ones who should get charged.

      • by Facegarden (967477) on Friday November 07, 2008 @05:21PM (#25682287)

        I agree with you, and think that certain regulation should be implemented that mimics certain countries laws. That would be the person who shot the video, no the person who is hosting the server that let someone post the video. I am not sure(as I never read the articles) but if the person is guilty of not screening, then I don't think there should be punishment, but if there is a way to track the person who filmed the video and posted it...they are the ones who should get charged.

        Charged with what? Putting a distasteful video on the internet? Do you know what kind of precedent that would set? Not that the current situation (suing google) is any better...
        -Taylor

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Miseph (979059)

          Or for assaulting a kid with Down syndrome...


          • Google has more money than the bullies parents.
          • Or for assaulting a kid with Down syndrome...

            Yeah, sorry, i misread the article. I was thinking it was more of a playful thing that was just distasteful, not a harassment/assault thing.
            -Taylor

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Alinabi (464689)

          Do you know what kind of precedent that would set?

          None, as the Italian law system is not based in common law and therefore does not have the notion of precedent

          • Do you know what kind of precedent that would set?

            None, as the Italian law system is not based in common law and therefore does not have the notion of precedent

            Ah, well then, interesting.
            -Taylor

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by lysergic.acid (845423)

            maybe not a legal precedent in the traditional sense, but just because there's no common law doesn't mean people won't imitate these actions and file similar cases after seeing the successful prosecution of the defendants in this case. heck, other European, and even non-European, countries could see it as an affirmation of "societally acceptable" censorship.

            it's just like when the U.K. starts putting up surveillance cameras everywhere it, not only sets a bad example, but also makes it more permissible for,

          • by el_nino (4271)

            The notion of precedence existed as early as in Roman Law, it just doesn't have the same specific meaning as it does under the common law system(s).

            I don't know much about Italian law, but precedence is alive and well in European Community law as well as European Convention of Human Rights case law from the ECHR, both of which are binding to Italian courts.

    • by longacre (1090157)
      Google should have known not to dishonor Fredo Corleone's long lost son.
  • no boarders (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LandDolphin (1202876) on Friday November 07, 2008 @04:33PM (#25681439)
    Seems that the internet having no boarders is being used by courts to extend their reach (e.g. Kentucky). This certainly does look like a good road to be traveling down.
  • Italy, eh? (Score:4, Funny)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday November 07, 2008 @04:33PM (#25681449)

    That's a bit machiavellian of them.

  • corporations (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord Ender (156273) on Friday November 07, 2008 @04:38PM (#25681515) Homepage

    How on earth are they suing individuals? Google is a corporation and must be treated as such under the law.

    • Re:corporations (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Duradin (1261418) on Friday November 07, 2008 @04:50PM (#25681707)
      The problem is under which country's laws are they protected, under which are they not protected and which country actually has jurisdiction.
      • Re:corporations (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Brian Gordon (987471) on Friday November 07, 2008 @05:00PM (#25681879)
        Yeah but good luck extraditing american citizens for a non-case. An american judge would throw out the case in an instant, and an american judge would deny extradition just as fast.
        • true, but, if convicted, good luck ever traveling to Italy without getting yourself arrested.
          • Re:corporations (Score:4, Insightful)

            by nanoflower (1077145) on Friday November 07, 2008 @05:46PM (#25682683)
            Gee... Never having to travel to Italy but allowed to travel the rest of the world.. Hmm. I think I can live with that... Besides, Italy wouldn't even try to extradite these guys since I doubt the punishment if found guilty is that harsh. What's strange is that they aren't spending their time finding the people who actually did harrass the kid. It's doubtful that the child even knows about Youtube or what it means for the video to be up there so it's not like putting the video up is causing him harm. Doing the actual harrassment is the real harm and is what should be punished.
            • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

              by squeeze69 (756427)
              Hi, actually the culprits for the aggression, the shooting and the uploading of the videos WERE found and punished. Our police enforcements are quite efficient. This is a link to an italian newspaper's site: http://www.lastampa.it/_web/cmstp/tmplrubriche/tecnologia/grubrica.asp?ID_blog=30&ID_articolo=5314&ID_sezione=38&sezione=News [lastampa.it]
            • by Splab (574204)

              Well you never know when you are flying and gets diverted to some country where you have a warrant.

              Also it would be more like any country in the EU since we got deals for exchange of wanted criminals.

    • by chrb (1083577)

      How on earth are they suing individuals? Google is a corporation and must be treated as such under the law.

      Judicial processing of violations of criminal law are (usually?) targeted at individuals. For example, you can't just murder someone and then claim that as an employee of a corporation you have some kind of legal immunity. Obviously it all depends on the law and judicial authority in question.

    • Re:corporations (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pmontra (738736) on Friday November 07, 2008 @07:12PM (#25683603) Homepage

      As an Italian living in Italy I remember that the boys that were responsible for the harassment were prosecuted in 2006, at the time of the facts.

      Google has been accused of abuses related to the failure of preventing defamation and to having made a profit out of that video thanks to the ads on the page (this is an abuse because our privacy laws). Those are criminal charges that can result in both a fine and jail time. Under Italian law individuals have criminal responsibility and not companies. That's why the state is suing managers of Google and not the company.

      My take on this issue is that's impractical to scan and review every single video, picture or comment posted to the internet (Google Video, YouTube, Flickr, even Slashdot). It's just a matter of volume. Laws that were created with the press or the TV in mind should be rewritten to take in account that fact unless we want to shutdown the Internet in Italy.

      I'm sure that in every country there are forces that want to tighten the control on the Internet and the freedom of speech of individuals, but I'm also sure that in most countries the majority of the citizens don't support them. Criminal responsibility is individual and only posters should be sued when controls on content are impractical. The service provider should be exempted from any accusations of complicity.

      • Interesting. Yes, unless Italy changes the law, it is in effect outlawing EVERY web site that allows user submissions, including slashdot.

        The lack of corporate protection also gives pause. If I were running a web business which allowed user submission, Italy would be near the bottom of my list of countries to allow access from. They won't get my business unless they fix their law.

      • by wikinerd (809585)

        unless we want to shutdown the Internet

        I would not completely rule out the possibility that there may exist some persons on this planet who may be thinking about shutting down the Internet anywhere

  • Itally Not Prudent (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday November 07, 2008 @04:43PM (#25681597) Homepage Journal

    If this proceeds, Google should simply shut down its operations in Italy and move to a neighboring country where its employees won't be targeted by tyrants.

    I'm assuming Italy doesn't want that reputation.

    • by areusche (1297613)

      I'm not an expert on international law, but if the employees aren't in Italy then why should they worry? I doubt a US court would allow an extradition for a crime as meaningless like this.

      Also is there a mirror of this video? I want to see it since some employees could be getting into some trouble because of it!

      • by Lord Ender (156273) on Friday November 07, 2008 @05:16PM (#25682185) Homepage

        You don't want a warrant for your arrest in any country. Even if it is something stupid which you can't be extradited for. It means you can never visit and you can never get a flight which goes through their airport or even anywhere near the country (for fear of being diverted to the country for some reason).

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        well, because they'd be at risk throughout Europe if a European arrest warrant was issued for them. And it seems that local governments don't have the right to tell issuing countries to get bent when they recieve a warrant for a petty or out-of-jurisdiction 'offence'.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by westlake (615356)
      If this proceeds, Google should simply shut down its operations in Italy and move to a neighboring country where its employees won't be targeted by tyrants.
      .

      and where, pray tell, in the EU is Google going to find a more tolerant reception when it comes to stories like this?

  • by fabrica64 (791212) <fabrica64@[ ]oo.com ['yah' in gap]> on Friday November 07, 2008 @04:45PM (#25681621)
    You may not know it but many prosecutors here in Italy are well known for being quite stupid and just trying to appear on newspapers. Laws in Italy are sometimes so complicated that they can justify any kind of "crime"
    • by plague3106 (71849) on Friday November 07, 2008 @04:51PM (#25681723)

      Well, thank god that never happens in the USA!

      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        Well, thank god that never happens in the USA!

        Well Obama is promising for the US to be more like Europe...

        • by Loibisch (964797)

          Ah, that probably means they're just going to be your average run-of-the-mill amount of "ignorant". Ignore Italy, they're special...

          • Ah, that probably means they're just going to be your average run-of-the-mill amount of "ignorant". Ignore Italy, they're special...

            No, our politicians are just as ignorant as the other poster said about Italy's ... it's just that they have a lot more money and resources to squander on their stupidity.

      • by arevos (659374)

        Never has the world had more need for a B-Ark [wikipedia.org].

        Just so you know, I've already reserved a place for all the British MPs that think a surveillance state is a good idea.

    • by rtechie (244489) *

      Please mod the parent up.

      These kind of dumb warrants against foreigners by prosecutors/judges in Italy are very common. There are warrants in Italy against President George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, for example.

    • by orzetto (545509) on Friday November 07, 2008 @06:22PM (#25683105)

      That was a comment that reeks Mafia all the way. Sure, some prosecutors are silly like there are silly people everywhere, but this kind of generalisation is typical of corrupt politicians who accuse prosecutors going after them of being politically motivated, as appearing in the press were the main aspiration of prosecutors (in case you did not know: we do not elect prosecutors nor judges here, so being known among the populace is no career advantage). There is much more money and career to be made by keeping quiet and pandering to illegal interests, as Corrado Carnevale [wikipedia.org] exemplifies.

      As for the specific case, I'd like to point out that in the Italian system felonies, once reported, must always be investigated and prosecuted, no matter the opinion of the prosecutor; it is a way of reducing arbitrary decisions and IMHO it is overall a Good Thing. As the article says, the decision to hold trial has not been made yet, and the chance that the prosecutor will ask for an archiving is not as small as you Americans may think; since all reported felonies must be investigated, dropping one is not a mark of incompetence on someone's career.

      If I remember correctly, in this specific instance it was former justice minister Clemente Mastella [wikipedia.org], leader of a corruption-ridden micro-party and currently in political disgrace (the two things are unfortunately unrelated...) that was most vocal in calling for a ban on Youtube and Google video when the video surfaced, of course never suggesting that the people who uploaded the video and performed the assault should be investigated themselves.

      In fact, I have no idea about what happened to the perpetrators. Surely I did not read nor hear anything on Italian media. It seems that all the fuss was about the thing being recorded and broadcast, instead of the crime itself.

      • by Shin-LaC (1333529)
        What's relevant to the news is not necessarily the same as what's relevant to the courts. In this case, there had been a string of violent acts committed by minors (vandalism, bullying etc.) where the perpetrators had used cell phones to film the incidents, and ended up disseminating evidence themselves. This was considered strange and novel enough to make national news for a while, until it got boring and the media moved on. That's just the media being the media.

        Meanwhile, Mastella thought he could get so
  • Related US Law (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ApharmdB (572578) on Friday November 07, 2008 @04:46PM (#25681641)
    For anyone who has managed a web forum (or yahoo group or whatever) and been sued for defamation/libel over material posted by a 3rd party - Is Section 230 of the Federal Communications Decency Act the relevant US law to be used in one's defense?

    It seems to be appropriate, but does anyone have personal experience?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 07, 2008 @04:47PM (#25681659)

    Predictably, it doesn't state anywhere that Italian prosecutors are going after the boys who harassed and attacked a handicapped child.

  • Why go after Google? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Clandestine_Blaze (1019274) on Friday November 07, 2008 @05:02PM (#25681917) Journal

    So let me get this straight, four kids were bullying a child with Down's Syndrome and a video of it was posted on Google Video. Rather than speaking with the parents of the children about bullying someone, especially someone with Down's Syndrome, prosecutors in Italy decide to go after Google? I don't think the teens involved should be going to jail and certainly Italian taxpayer time and money should not be directed completely on this. But I don't see how or why they are trying to go after Google, especially since they complied with the removal request within a day.

    Also, for those of you wondering who Pancini is and didn't read the article, he is introduced in the article as Marco Pancini, Google's European public policy counsel. The summary does not mention who the hell he is.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by tompkins (1392469)
      Mod parent up. Why all of the misguided outrage for a delay in removing an offensive video? The priority here is obviously to go after the deep pockets rather than any concern for the kids involved. Just think of the children!
    • by orzetto (545509) on Friday November 07, 2008 @06:32PM (#25683205)

      [...] prosecutors in Italy decide to go after Google?

      Prosecutors do not decide what to prosecute in Italy. Felonies, when reported, must always be investigated. In this case, it was the ministry of Interior that sent in a complaint, and prosecutors are only doing their job. Should they decide to start a trial instead of archiving the case, then there will be a reason to insult them.

      • Thanks for the info about prosecution in Italy. The article made it sound like the charges were certain, especially with a title like "Four Google Officials Likely to Stand Trial in Italy".

        But you do have a point, nowhere in the article does it say that the charges have been officially filed and that the four employees will be standing trial.

        • But you do have a point, nowhere in the article does it say that the charges have been officially filed and that the four employees will be standing trial.

          Oh.... so that's who leaked the story to the press. OK, I take back what I said about the prosecutors.

  • by chrb (1083577) on Friday November 07, 2008 @05:12PM (#25682105)

    Pancini said Drummond did paperwork to create Google Italy, but has never lived in the country

    What, you mean you can be sentenced to several years in jail in a nation that you're never even visited? [govtech.com] Imagine the shock.

    I wonder if we'll ever see an American extradited to Europe, Australia, or even China for breaking intellectual property laws. The US is currently lobbying for criminal law to be used to enforce patents in the EU - it would be amusing to see the response if Europe actually started requesting the extradition of Americans who are suspected of violating EU patents!

    In other news, treaties that are only enforced by one side suck.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You know, I expected to find something in that story that I could use to refute the validity of your claim. Perhaps that the law he had violated was particularly severe, or something we could all agree on. But nope, that was a pretty good example of things we will have to deal with increasingly in this world. It is like being at the border of one country and saying something loud enough that someone in a neighboring country overhears (which is illegal to say in that country) and being arrested for it in you

    • Ahh, and the rest of the world wonders why the US doesn't join the World Court. Small fucking wonder. This kind of persecutory monkey business is exactly the problem.
    • I wonder if we'll ever see an American extradited to Europe, Australia, or even China for breaking intellectual property laws.

      It seems likely given the current pace. Obama and most of the Democrats are very pro-UN, and on the other side you have mostly Rockefeller Republicans:

      Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing my family and me as 'internationalists' and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated

  • by eepok (545733) on Friday November 07, 2008 @06:05PM (#25682929) Homepage

    Why sue Youtube?

    There are the harassers and the video posters who are more directly linked with any harm.

    Oh, right. The money.

  • Why doesn't Google simply tell Italy to shove it? What are they going to do about it? Google is an American not an Italian company.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm italian. For those of you who didn't know, here's a highly condensed list of relevant events in our recent history.

    1 - Fascism is back.

    Every democracy challenged regime must control the information sources, youtube included, therefore they're working on it in a subtle way.
    While that video surely shouldn't have been posted online and those bastards deserve a new ass treatment in some dark jail, I'm pretty sure our government is trying to force things to the point Google will give the government a tool to

    • by lbbros (900904)
      What do you try to accomplish by spreading politically meaningless statements(it's still a democratic country, you know)? The government has no say in this. And do you know that Italian law is not common law-like?
      • by peppepz (1311345)

        Indeed, the post you replied to was greatly exaggerated: the italian government will not censor youtube.
        What is happening is that the parliament is planning legislation [youtube.com] [italian language] to stop youtube from infringing copyright by hosting clips of tv shows recorded from the head of the government’s private tv networks.

        Yet, it is to be noted that democratically elected members of senate [adnkronos.com] [italian language] belonging to the currently ruling party, and even the head of the government himself [guardian.co.uk], are often

  • It's a rather outrageous case, and we all know it. Still, there's a certain satisfaction in seeing Google execs suffer for any reason. I imagine I'd feel the same way if W went to Singapore, gave his secret service buddy a stick of gum that was later spit onto the sidewalk, and got caned.

  • Wouldn't it be nice to finally have saved up enough money to go on a trip abroad, land in the airport, you go through airport security, they check your visa, type your name into their computer and UP pops a wants and warrants for you to be arrested. Yes you worked at that company that posted that video. Or you posted a comment that many in our government found offensive. Or you offended the-supreme-being-we-believe-in with your remarks in that slashdot post therefore we are going to take you out back and
  • Google immediately responded to this by denying ingress TCP packets from all Italian netblocks and redirecting google.it and google.co.it to goatse.cx.

    Just kidding, but it would be funny.

  • I'm wondering why they would take the video down? Is not having the video going to improve the life of this child? Does it make us pretend that someone is not getting abused?

    Sometimes we need to see the truth of things. Why isn't all of the NAZI propaganda, translated Hitler, Goebels and other speeches on YouTube, along with captured footage of all the outrages committed by them. Let's get all of our ugliness up there, and if there is any editing, let the editing be to yank out the gore so that the les

  • I'm Italian and I can state that in Italy defamation is frequently used to threaten people.

    Once I was in Cortina where a guy dented my 10 year old car. So I used a four letter word. The guy threatened me over filing defamation charges. So I took advantage of this in my way and covered him with much more defamation. His wife was thoroughly embarrassed and I was highly amused. The dent wasn't actually noticeable and I took this in my speed-of-light assessment of the situation.

    Another time I was walking
    • "Why would the British make jokes about us walking backwards?"

      Being Italian also, I would like to point out that the British can't cook worth a damn, but an Italian grandmother can cook anything out of virtually nothing.

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