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Google Italy Execs Convicted Over YouTube Bullying Video 391

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i-just-thought-of-the-children dept.
FTWinston writes "Three Italian Google executives have been convicted of privacy violations in Italy over the contents of a YouTube video showing a boy with Downs syndrome being bullied — despite the fact that the video was removed as soon as it was brought to their attention, and that Google assisted the authorities in locating those who posted it. Prosecutors argued that Google should have sought the consent of all parties involved with the video before allowing it to go online. Quite how they were meant to achieve this is another matter." Google has responded by saying this is a Serious threat to the web.
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Google Italy Execs Convicted Over YouTube Bullying Video

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  • And now we have even more judges whose lives aren't worth the resources they consume.

    • And don't understand the concept of liberated speech. "Prosecutors argued that Google should have sought the consent of all parties involved with the video before allowing it to go online." - If you first ask PERMISSION to speak (or post videos), then you are Serf not a free person.

    • by Xest (935314) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @10:45AM (#31259156)

      This is political.

      I would wager that this is Berlusconi's way of trying to control the web, you have to keep in mind this is a man who has a stranglehold on Italian media, and has used that to get into, and stay in power over the years. The web has been a headache for him, because it's an avenue from which people are getting news and which he does not control.

      The judges may well be incompetent, or corrupt, but really they're just pawns in a bigger battle.

      It's really hard to see how it can be anything else, I do not believe judges would reach the conclusion they did based on the fact that Google had done everything possible in their power, and based on the fact the people at Google in question who were targetted, are in some cases completely irrelevant and unattached to anything to do with the case.

      It's likely that these people were chosen because they were high enough to make a point, but not the top dogs who really would have been able to unleash hell and fight back.

      This is certainly one way in which Berlusconi could try and control the web such that it adheres to his viewpoint as much of the Italian media that he controls does, by ensuring that content providers are criminally responsible for anything put up that the government disagrees with. It's not a big deal for the Google execs, because they will likely never travel to Italy and so the case wont effect them- but picture this, you run a site in Italy critical of the Italian PM, you post photos of him carrying out an illegal deal, and, well, now you know where it will land you at least- jail. Anyone not from Italy doing the same, faces jail if they ever decide to travel to Italy after being convicted of the same.

      It's almost as if Berlusconi has been taking lessons from the likes of Chavez and Ahmadinejad recently.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by klenwell (960296)

        This was my conclusion, too, as soon as I read the headline after hearing this story on NPR last week:

        http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=123761651 [npr.org]

        From that report:

        One patron, Christian Lingreen, says his native Denmark has 100 percent Wi-Fi coverage — Italy maybe just 1 percent. "I love Italy," he says, "but I have to say [information technology], that is not their cup of tea."

        Nearby sits Riikka Vanio of Finland, who is a mother of two children. "In the school, it's impossible to pass information to other parents through Internet, because none of them have Internet connection at home or not even e-mail address," she says. "So it's not part of their culture yet."

        Nevertheless, Italy's right-wing government is going far beyond its European partners with the decree that would require Web sites with video content to request authorization and would mandate the vetting of copyrighted videos before they're uploaded.

  • Great big targets (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ItsColdOverHere (928704) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @09:56AM (#31258600)

    So Italy has basically painted a great big target on every single operator of social media.
    Apparently if an Italian moderator or admin ticks me off I can simply upload some offending bit of data and call the cops...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RMH101 (636144)
      that's it: Berlusconi doesn't like that people can post videos of him getting hit with model cathedrals, so he's classing anyone who uploads video to the internet as a broadcaster subject to government regulation.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by bickerdyke (670000)

        Small correction:

        He doesn't like ANYONE publishing ANY KIND of video. TV station owner, competition, wink wink nudge nudge

    • Clearly Italians want what we all want: Automated Protect the Handicapped and the Children video services! This is really not that hard. Just have someone write a perl script that automatically detects any potentially offensive video before the video is posted. End of problem. Case closed. In carta diem di tutto! Done and done.

      It's just a simple matter of software at this point.

  • What?!? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AllyGreen (1727388) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @09:56AM (#31258604)
    Thats a fucking witch hunt, what the heck else could google have done??
  • Mistake (Score:3, Insightful)

    by seven of five (578993) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @09:58AM (#31258618) Homepage
    This seems to be a mistake by the particular court that tried the case. Don't the Italians have an appeals process? It's just silly.
    • Re:Mistake (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @10:08AM (#31258750)

      Don't the Italians have an appeals process?

      In the worst case, Google could go to the European Court of Justice since the European E-Commerce directive "says that "technical intermediaries" – web content hosts – are not liable for bad content but the creators or video posters are."

      See this Euractiv article [66.102.9.132] for more.

      • by Krneki (1192201)

        Don't the Italians have an appeals process?

        In the worst case, Google could go to the European Court of Justice since the European E-Commerce directive "says that "technical intermediaries" – web content hosts – are not liable for bad content but the creators or video posters are."

        See this Euractiv article [66.102.9.132] for more.

        Of course they will win at the end. This case just makes you wonder if there is a system in place to remove incompetent judges.

      • Re:Mistake (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Saint Fnordius (456567) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @11:11AM (#31259438) Homepage Journal

        This may be what happened here, the lower court judges expecting their decision to be overturned but still wanting to make a statement. They don't care that it clogs up the system and eats up lawyer time on both sides, it's all about showing everyone that they're boss. To them, Google is rich and can afford it, so they don't care.

        Of course, I don't wholly discount the idea of Berlusconi agents applying pressure and greasing palms to chill the atmosphere either. I merely think it's the less likely excuse, yet still very plausible.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bjourne (1034822)
        But Google isn't merely a technical intermediary, they are also in a way publishing the material. They control the front page, which videos to push and most importantly, they are the ones making money on the ads. I don't think they should be entirely without liability for what happens on their site. The situation is very tricky.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by lordholm (649770)
          If the video was uploaded to a "normal" pay for web hosting ISP, they are also making money from you for serving the video. The point with this is that what you say does not really make any sense in terms of an argument.

          Yes, they control the front-page, but does it matter if the front page looks pretty to compared to for example an FTP site where you just would get the file listing?

          The e-commerse directive, articles 14 and 15 are very clear on the situation, some argue that they where written with ISPs

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Dhalka226 (559740)

      Look, I think the decision is as stupid as everybody else does. But unless you are an expert on Italian law, don't go yammering about how an Italian judge doesn't know how to apply the law of a country you probably don't even live in.

      Enforcing stupid laws does not make him a bad judge, nor does it make his decision a mistake. If you have evidence to the contrary other than "well I don't like this very much and therefore it must be wrong!" then by all means, point it out and let's have a look.

      • by JohnFluxx (413620)

        "Enforcing stupid laws does not make him a bad judge," uh, yes it does.

      • Actually, you don't have to be an expert in Italian law. The safe harbour provisions in the EUCD and EU eCommerce directives supersede Italian law in this case, and these explicitly indemnify Google as long as they deal with removal requests in a timely manner.
  • So by extension this means that if someone pushes a kilo of cocaine through my letterbox and I report it to the police, I'm guilty of possession of a controlled substance?

    The judge is a fucking retard.

  • Bread and circuses (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pv2b (231846) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @10:01AM (#31258656)

    This is ridiculous.

    If Youtube is illegal in Italy, maybe Google should just start blocking people from Italy from accessing the site. Maybe then people will care, when the people's bread and circuses are threatened.

    • This was about youtube, not Berlusconis TV stations.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    We are beginning to see a confrontation between American long held beliefs in free speech and what other nations consider to be free speech.

    We are seeing this happen with internet censorship in Australia, Europe, and Asia.

    It is quite possible that in the near future the internet will look very different on a per country basis.

    • by garg0yle (208225)

      In this case, it was more of a conflict between free speech and the privacy of others, since they were conflicted of violating the Italian privacy code (which is pretty stringent). For the record, your right to free speech stops somewhere before you post my personal information on the 'net.

  • by Ant P. (974313) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @10:04AM (#31258682) Homepage

    Automatically notify the Italian government of every single public video uploaded to Youtube, and offer them a 5 minute delay before it becomes viewable inside Italy in which time they can reject it.

    They'll be begging for it to stop after half an hour.

    • While I like this idea, looking for a solution that is, in and of itself, a bigger problem seems to belittle the parties involved on both sides. Overwhelming the Italian Government does not make them see their error, only makes them an "enemy."
      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        I think the Italian government made it quiet clear that they were the enemy when they started slapping handcuffs on Google execs.
    • by delinear (991444)
      More likely they'll just get someone to write an auto-decline script for everything that's not a pre-approved government release. You're not thinking government enough.
  • From the article it says that Google was convicted of violating privacy law for not getting permission to post the video. The nature of the video is irrelevant. I don't know Italian privacy law, but if they do have requirements that you must get permission to post video recordings of people on the internet, then this is Google's problem for not bothering to care about the local laws.
    • by Adrian Lopez (2615) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @10:29AM (#31258982) Homepage

      I don't know Italian privacy law, but if they do have requirements that you must get permission to post video recordings of people on the internet, then this is Google's problem for not bothering to care about the local laws.

      Google aren't the ones who posted the video -- they are just the conduit. If Italian authorities wish to take action against those who post videos without permission then let them pursue those who actually choose to post them instead of those who provide the platform.

    • The real solution would be to deny Italian submissions completely and/or block Italian viewers. It is too much of a burden to identify and ask for permission, or even detect videos not containing any people.

  • Wow. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @10:07AM (#31258720) Homepage

    Just wow.

    This is so far over the top...based on the couple of different sources I have seen this story so far, Google immediately complied when asked to take the video down, assisted the authorities in finding the culprits, and fully cooperated....and the EXECUTIVES, who amount to pencil pushers with decision making powers, get convicted? Seriously, what the hell...that makes no sense.

    They must have used the Chewbacca defense [wikipedia.org] against them or something...

    • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @10:16AM (#31258838) Homepage
      I dunno. The "immediately" part only applies if you start counting from the first letter-from-lawyer. If you count from when Google Italy actually received the first written complaint about the video, then it took more than 2 MONTHS before anything happened. (and there's no indication anything would've happened at all, if not for the lawyer-attention)
  • by mdwh2 (535323) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @10:07AM (#31258722) Journal

    The UK's former Information Commissioner Richard Thomas said the case gave privacy laws a "bad name".

    To which I entirely agree. Privacy laws have been used here in the UK (e.g., when the News Of The World posted a video showing Max Mosley in private acts), but the point is that firstly these are civil cases not criminal ones, and secondly, it requires intent, and does not make someone liable for merely "allowing" it, or running a server where users post content.

    Even for something that clearly is and should be illegal, this ruling would be worrying - it's making server owners personally and criminally liable, rather than seeing them as common carriers.

    But as mad as this is, in some sense this should be no different to say, if China decided to convict a Google exec for linking to pro-democracy pages, for example. Stupid, yes, but Google can and should ignore it. Those convicted do not live in Italy, so I don't see how they would have to comply if they don't visit (of course if they get extradited, then that will be mad). Google doesn't even have to pull out of Italy - they can surely just carry on, and it's up to Italy to try to block them.

    The worrying thing though is that this is not some far off country, but a member of the EU.

  • Riiight (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Taibhsear (1286214) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @10:11AM (#31258786)

    Prosecutors argued that Google should have sought the consent of all parties involved with the video before allowing it to go online.

    And should I get permission from the cop that I catch tasering someone for no reason before I post that video as well? That statement is ripe for abuse.

  • Misleading news (Score:5, Informative)

    by ifchairscouldtalk (1031944) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @10:13AM (#31258800)
    The video was NOT removed as soon as it was brought to Google's attention.
    According to the prosecutors the video remained online for two months even though web users had already asked for it to be taken down.

    It is also worth mentioning that Google execs will not serve jail time because in Italy sentences of less than three years are commuted for people without criminal records.
  • [[ Interesting commentary waiting on permission from CmdrTaco, FTWinston, and the Italian Government ]]
  • In Italy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SpaghettiPattern (609814) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @10:16AM (#31258840)
    In Italy defamation is a beloved way to make people shut up. In two occasions I was threatened to be sued over defamation.

    For the record, both times a car driver behaved like an arse and I told them they were 1) "un coglione" which is best translated as knobhead/dickhead/idiot and 2) "stronza" (bitch.) Both times the defamation threat came instantaneously. Knowing it would cost me US$ 100 tops, I actually enjoyed the frigging beggars -their motives were mostly financial IMHO- winding themselves up.

    I suppose I actually deserved a bit of verbal thrashing and intimidation in those cases. But imagine much worthier goals being seriously hampered by this. You very quickly defame someone in Italy on the base that they actually deserve it.

    We Italians sort of cherish elaborated, concocted, ridiculous laws. It makes us feel "save" in a way that if push comes to shove we will find some way to delay or attack the adversary.

    Yes, I'm Italian and quite ambivalent about it. Don't think, however, that I would trade in my nationality that lightly. It's certainly not the best nationality to have but I haven't came across a better one so far. I trust most feel the same about their own nationality.
  • Don't look at google (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gmuslera (3436) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @10:25AM (#31258930) Homepage Journal
    If is a valid precedent, then in any moment slashdot admins could be convicted in Italy for an AC comment. Or any of us, if we didnt promoted down that comment when had moderating points.
  • by sp3d2orbit (81173) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @10:27AM (#31258970)

    The president Silvio Berlusconi and his family own 45% of all media in the country (http://ketupa.net/berlusconi.htm). He regularly uses his political position to personally enrich himself and his family.

    Google came into the country and threatened his source of income by offering a media platform not controlled by the Berlusconi's. This has nothing to do with the autistic boy in the video, but everything to do with the retarded president.

    • by mdm-adph (1030332) <mdmadph@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @10:28AM (#31258980) Homepage

      Aye -- I think this has very little to do with an actual crime, and everything to do with Berlusconi not wanting videos of himself being smashed in the face with miniatures ending up online.

      They either want Google to pull out or give the Italian PM the control he wants.

    • Small correction... (Score:3, Informative)

      by IANAAC (692242)
      Silvio Berlusconi isn't the president. Never has been. He's the Prime Minister.
    • My parent said:

      This has nothing to do with the autistic boy in the video

      The summary said:

      a YouTube video showing a boy with Downs syndrome

      And the internets at http://autism.suite101.com/article.cfm/autism_and_down_syndrome [suite101.com] said:

      One set of co-morbid conditions that are experiencing an upsurge in research is the existence of an autism spectrum disorder in an individual who also has Down syndrome

      If autism and Down syndrome can coexist, it seems reasonable they can also not coexist, and that they therefore are different things.

      Please don't confuse the two.

  • Man, I love Italy. Easily my favorite European country to visit, but idiotic things like this make me never want to visit again.

    IMO, any prosecutors involved in even attempting to bring such a case to court should have been immediately removed from their position. The fact that the judge allowed the case AND ruled in favor, he should have been immediately removed from his position and barred from any and all legal and / or political practices within Italy.

    • by berashith (222128)

      apparently you don't even have to visit there to be convicted of their laws. They're apparently able to find you guilty of allowing other people to post to the internet.

      any grammar nazis notice what i just did ??? you cant complain all the time if you dont give credit!

  • Reading the first couple of sentences of the summary "finally, common sense! Executives have been convicted over violating the poster's privacy by leading police to him!"
    one RTFS and RTFA later, and... for fuck's sake.

  • Once again I am sure that I am not the only one who misread this: "Google Italy Executes Convicted Over YouTube Bullying Videos"
  • The Italian legal system is a FARCE. The more I hear about how it operates the more I dislike it. How can the Italian people accept it? They found Amanda Knox guilty [go.com] after they already confirmed who the real perpetrator was.

    Shame on Italy. Not that I'm in love with Google, but you guys are fucking stupid with your legal system.
  • Keep in mind... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @10:48AM (#31259190)

    ... That Berlusconi, beside being the president of that country, is too the manager of almost every TV stations in Italy (Mediaset).
    I live in Switzerland, and I cannot find it again, but I read some weeks ago that a law was to be enforced to regulate the viewing of on demand video.

    The article was relating the big amount of money that where being put into a on-demand video platform for mediaset at the same time, and how youtube was the first competitor to put aside.
    http://www.totaltele.com/view.aspx?ID=450891 [totaltele.com]
    http://news.softpedia.com/news/Berlusconi-s-Government-Plans-to-Severely-Restrict-Online-Video-in-Italy-132350.shtml [softpedia.com]

    Given the fact that Berlusconi says all the time that "The bad journalists are attacking me without reasons all the time" http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2009/10/15/f-berlusconi-saga.html [www.cbc.ca], and how he consider that the fist in face he received some times ago was "organized and planed via facebook" http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601085&sid=alDDK9lGqxtY [bloomberg.com] I am not that surprised of that move.
    After all, he passed a law giving him immunity in every lawsuit for corruption that where opened against him when he came back to the government.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/feb/18/silvio-berlusconi-immunity-prosecution [guardian.co.uk]

  • by netsavior (627338) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @10:55AM (#31259266)
    "Youtube.com is inaccessible from your country."
    Error 1942 - Fascist exception overflow. Please disable Axis powers and reload the page.
  • My heroes (Score:3, Informative)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @10:59AM (#31259308)
    Is this the same Italy that let a a fugitive child rapist attend [bbc.co.uk] an awards ceremony in their country without the slightest fear of arrest? So I guess it's okay to rape a kid as long as you don't bully them on Youtube? What noble defenders of our kids, that Italian government!
  • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @11:32AM (#31259790)
    This is very typical of Italian "justice". You must understand that in Italy they feel sorry for the worst criminals and like to convict lesser ones. People over 35 might remember the Achille Lauro hijacking where an elderly Jewish American cruise ship passenger was killed by terrorists. The terrorists were going to get away on an Egyptian Airliner until President Reagan ordered US fighters to intercept the flight and force it to land in Italy. The Italians showed up with their elite armed police and at gunpoint demanded the right to try the hijackers. And in justice the Italian way, they ended up feeling sorry for all of them and made all of the ones they convicted eventually eligible for work release. And of course, one of them took advantage of this and fled and it was only due to the competence of Spanish authorities that he was recaptured.

    You must be aware too that Italy probably has the strongest voice in all of the EU against the death penalty. So like many countries that don't have it, they tend to be pretty soft on true criminal behavior. They are not like the UK where you actually can get locked up for life. Remember a few years ago when some guys tried and failed to do more terrorist bombings in London? At least one of the culprits fled to Italy and demanded to be tried there. He knew that he'd get maybe 10 years at most and be set free if he faced what passes for Italian justice.
  • by ArundelCastle (1581543) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @11:43AM (#31259918)

    It's unlikely most countries would adopt the same restrictions China has, but obviously when Europe starts impacting the internet, pants are rightfully bricked. (Not that the U.S. lawmakers haven't had their fair share of calls for net filtering and ISP responsibility in the name of children, privacy, and copyright.)
    Just to imagine what the landscape could look like a few years from now, following is *paraphrased* from Google's hearing before congress in 2006. [blogspot.com]

    Some governments impose restrictions that make our mission difficult to achieve, and this is what we have encountered in Italy. In such a situation, we have to add to the balance a third fundamental commitment:

    (c) Be responsive to local conditions.

    So with that framework in mind, we decided to try a different path, a path rooted in the very pragmatic calculation that we could provide more access to more information to more Italian citizens more reliably by offering a new service – Google.it – that, though subject to Italy's self-censorship requirements, would have some significant advantages. Above all, it would be faster and more reliable, and would provide more and better search results for all but a handful of politically sensitive subjects. We also developed several elements that distinguish our service in Italy, including:

            * Disclosure to users -- We will give notification to Italian users whenever search results have been removed.
            * Protection of user privacy -- We will not maintain on Italy soil any services, like email, that involve personal or confidential data. This means that we will not, for example, host Gmail or Blogger, our email and blogging tools, in Italy.
            * Continued availability of Google.com -- We will not terminate the availability of our unfiltered Italian-language Google.com service.

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