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Google Italy Execs Convicted Over YouTube Bullying Video 391

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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  • 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)
    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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @10:04AM (#31258680)

    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 ircmaxell ( 1117387 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @10:04AM (#31258688) Homepage
    This is honestly the first time in my life that I am ashamed of my heritage. This is absolutely ridiculous and reeks of corruption and incompetence. I seriously hope that --for all of our sakes-- this gets overturned in the appeal. But seriously, when did "having evidence of a crime" make you guilty of a crime (So long as you didn't try to tamper or hide it)? Did I miss the memo?
  • by omega6 ( 1072658 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @10:05AM (#31258696)
    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 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.

  • Re:What?!? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by natehoy ( 1608657 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @10:08AM (#31258738) Journal

    So one person in their customer base posts an objectionable video, they are informed about that video and remove it immediately, they assist the local police in finding who posted the video, and you think their behavior is deserving of criminal charges?

    Man, I hope for your sake you never run a phone company in Italy. Imagine being held criminally liable every time one of your customers calls in a bomb threat to someone. Or the post office. Imagine the postmaster general being arrested and tried for murder each time a bomb is successfully mailed in the country.

    What do you expect? Someone at Google has to watch and individually approve each and every video ever posted? How is that respecting the rights of the individual? Not only is it impractically expensive, it would be violating the right to free speech that many countries allow.

    If Italy has their togas in a twist over people posting videos to public sites, the Italian government should pay for banks of censors and filter videos themselves.

    Giving individuals rights means that sometimes some individuals (like the assholes who posted the video referenced above) will abuse those rights. At which point you find those individuals and punish them.

  • This is Italy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bradley13 ( 1118935 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @10:09AM (#31258766) Homepage
    "reeks of corruption and incompetence" This is, after all, Italy: the country that elected and then re-elected Berlusconi.
  • Re:So basically... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by natehoy ( 1608657 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @10:10AM (#31258772) Journal

    Yes. It also means the postmaster general is liable for trafficking in illegal drugs, assuming the person who pushed the kilo of cocaine through your letterbox affixed postage to it first.

  • 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.

  • Re:What?!? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Muros ( 1167213 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @10:20AM (#31258878)

    What do you expect? Someone at Google has to watch and individually approve each and every video ever posted?

    Apparently that would not be enough. "Prosecutors argued that Google should have sought the consent of all parties involved with the video before allowing it to go online." So, Someone at Google has to watch every video, personally identify every person involved in the video, and get their consent, and then approve it.

  • by rvw ( 755107 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @10:26AM (#31258954)

    My wife and I had planned on visiting Italy in the next few years. After watching the trial, we changed our minds. Italy's legal system has ... "flaws."

    You misunderstand. Those "flaws" are in fact "features" designed by the government, to support that government (or the media companies associated with it) whenever it needs them.

  • 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 ( 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 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @10:28AM (#31258980)

    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.

  • 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.

  • Re:What?!? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daengbo ( 523424 ) <> on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @10:39AM (#31259098) Homepage Journal

    In your analogy, the account holder is the newspaper editor. Google is the delivery company that picks it up and trucks it off.

  • Re:This is Italy (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @11:01AM (#31259332)

    Though another one did the same w/ G. W., so I think we're tie.

  • Re:Mistake (Score:5, Insightful)

    by delinear ( 991444 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @11:03AM (#31259348)

    No, GP is right. The reason we have stupid laws is because we have stupid and/or corrupt politicians. The judge in this case isn't necessarily either stupid or corrupt - quite often an astute judge who recognises a stupid law will set up a trial case (preferably by finding against someone big enough to take care of themselves like Google) which they know will almost certainly go to appeal. Once it goes to appeal, any precedent set is more binding on the lower courts. This is one of the most powerful ways in which the judiciary can use the legal system to highlight unjust laws, and I have respect for those judges who do because they take an incredible amount of flak from the man in the street who just sees a stupid decision.

    That's not to say, of course, that the judge in this case wasn't just stupid and/or corrupt (there's definitely a non-zero chance of that), GP is just advocating that we perhaps, you know, get all the facts before decrying him. Generally the wording of the judge's decision will show his intent, if he speaks a lot about being bound by the letter of the law then he's doing this to get the law discussed and perhaps reconsidered. If he mainly talks about the culpability of the defendents then he's likely dumb or getting a brown envelope bonus in this month's salary.

  • Re:Mistake (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bjourne ( 1034822 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @11:16AM (#31259504) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • by Colz Grigor ( 126123 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @11:17AM (#31259532) Homepage

    Or, at the very least, disable all uploading ability on YouTube or posting ability on Blogger or any other user-contributed Google sites from Italian users, citing this case and the unwillingness of Google to accept any more user submissions from Italian users until the case is resolved. I think that would be totally fair and completely within Google's rights.

    Google could do that, but That's precisely what Berlusconi wants in the first place: complete control over all media in Italy. It would send more of a message to stop accepting advertisements by Italians, so Google can claim no Italian revenue and pay no Italian taxes.

  • Re:What?!? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Modern Demagogue ( 975016 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @11:22AM (#31259608)
    This is fundamentally different than your examples; by definition youTube is using this content to turn a financial profit; they are not blind such as a phone company, who makes a profit by charging a fee to two users and provides a private channel of communication between them, or the mail, which is also private communication.

    People need to stop thinking of YouTube / Google as some helpless 3rd Party that is not responsible for the content it disseminates, and that the paradigm of email or a network neutral approach applies. They are not a common carrier with distinct sender/receiver parties; they are a public distribution network accessible by all much closer to broadcast television. A television network would not be allowed to air a video like this without clearing all the rights to it, unless they were using it as part of a news piece, and even then they might have to blur some of the faces etc. Why should google not have a similar duty of care?

    Google and Youtube are essentially for profit entities which sell ad space next to, before, or on top of content provided by another entity. All internet content distributors have a legal duty to make sure they have the rights to the content they distribute, before doing so.

    Yes this is inefficient and would curtail the growth of such sites, but their explosive growth is only because they are not responsible for their true cost of doing business, and have been getting a free ride for far too long through a loophole exemption in the DMCA. I should not have to patrol the internet to make sure my copyrights are not being violated; I should be able to go to sleep at night knowing that my content is safe wherever it is being distributed, because that distributor has taken the necessary precautions to clear all rights and compensate performers, artists, and creators appropriately; even if that performer is an autistic child.

    And yes, I do expect that someone at Google should watch every video, and file the accompanying paperwork; talent release forms, rights releases for music, photographic releases from the dp etc... Thats how it works with every other form of mass media. If it is impractically expensive; then perhaps the notion of Google, Facebook, etc, are impractical in and of themselves. And this would not violate free speech — you clearly don't have a firm grasp of what Free Speech actually means or entails. Copyright fraud or intellectual property theft are not protected elements of free speech.
  • by delinear ( 991444 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @11:25AM (#31259640)
    Here in the UK this kind of story comes up quite frequently - people posting "happy slapping", i.e. abusive, bullying videos online, and the stories always centre around the technology and how sick it is people are sharing this content on their phones/posting it online, very rarely does it centre on how sick it is that we live in a society where this kind of bullying is commonplace. I quite often get the feeling the people in power would be much happier to just ban such videos and go back to ignoring the problem (the way the schools have been doing for at least the last 30 years - hey, if we don't see it, it's not happening).
  • Re:Mistake (Score:2, Insightful)

    by AlecC ( 512609 ) <> on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @11:27AM (#31259698)

    The first thing Google should do is block uploading of videos to Google Video (and YouTube, which they own) from Italian IP addresses with an annoying great splash screen explaining that, in compliance with Italian Law, they are no longer able to accept them. Still allow viewing of other people's videos, of course, so Italians still use Google Video. of course, it will involve some revenue loss as Italians move to other places to store their pictures. This should get a significant number of pissed-off Italian users asking their politicians WIHIH?

    And, if they can, hide any clips they already have up loaded from such addresses. Nothing like people having they prized videos suddenly become inaccessible to make them ask for explanations.

  • by ircmaxell ( 1117387 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @11:42AM (#31259904) Homepage
    Well, when you submit a content to one of these sites, you explicitly say that you have copyright over it and grant the site permission to use it. How are they supposed to verify every single work to see if you really did have the right to grant permission in the first place? It's not only inefficient, but for a sizable amount of content it's all but impossible (If you recorded a video of kids playing in a park, how can they know for sure if A. You actually took the video, B. You had permission to take the video, and C. You have the permissions of each and every person and object videoed to be recorded?)... You bring up news services as an example because clear all the rights to a video. That's different for two reasons. First, they are typically seeking the content (as opposed to openly receiving the content) and as such the onus comes on them to verify the source... Secondly, they are claiming the source as credible (and as such, they need to do the research to make sure it's not fake, pirated, etc)...

    I should be able to go to sleep at night knowing that my content is safe wherever it is being distributed, because that distributor has taken the necessary precautions to clear all rights and compensate performers, artists, and creators appropriately

    Let's say that I copy a work that you made, and then say that I made it. Unless the people I release it to recognize that it's yours, how in the world are they supposed to know that it's not my content? And how in the world should they be liable for me claiming that it's my own? Not only is that a logistical nightmare (maybe even impossible), but it's also a childish thing to ask for. What it boils down to is that you (or your guardian in the case where you are not mentally disabled) are responsible for the protection of your own rights. If I constantly harass you (phone calls, emails, whatever so long as it's non-violent), it's up to you to get the police to do something about it. If I threaten to kill you, it's up to you to take measures to protect yourself (calling the cops, hiring a body guard, etc). Freedom is not free, and neither are your rights. You need to fight for them, and to think that someone else should be doing that for you is ignorance at best...

  • 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. []

    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 – – 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 -- We will not terminate the availability of our unfiltered Italian-language service.

  • Re:Mistake (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lordholm ( 649770 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @11:44AM (#31259934) Homepage
    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 in mind, but that doesn't really matter because it speaks only of hosting and, until there is a new directive written with cloud like services and not ISPs (though I fail to se the difference), the directive will be the one that is deciding what should be done.

    Google acted as soon as they where notified by the authorities about the video and removed it within 2 hours. This fulfils their obligation. And no, google does not read the video comments for all the 50 billion video clips that they host, so claiming that Google was notified because someone wrote a comment that they wanted it to be removed does not hold.

  • by bickerdyke ( 670000 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @11:46AM (#31259952)

    Are you sure Italy has case law?

  • Re:Misleading news (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @11:55AM (#31260110)

    even though web users had already asked for it to be taken down

    Is there any indication that this asking involved something other than posting a comment to the video page? I wouldn't expect the site admins to read all the comments. Was the "report this" button used? If so, then there does appear to be something broken with takedown process. Copyright takedowns seems to be executed very quickly.

  • by ottothecow ( 600101 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @11:57AM (#31260126) Homepage
    No, you actually don't.

    Maybe your parents could make some sort of claim since they technically created you, but if I take a picture of you hanging out somewhere (or getting beat up somewhere) and my photo becomes the next taking of Iwo Jima or sailor kissing nurse, I am free to sell prints of your likeness to art galleries and license it to news organizations and college dorm poster manufacturers for years to come.

  • Re:What?!? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Volante3192 ( 953645 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:02PM (#31260212)

    I can think immediately of the counter-argument: "If you can't do it properly, please don't do it until you can."

    We're sorry, but you cannot post this until it has been properly vetted by the Italian government. Your reply will now be redacted until the proper authorities can verify your post does not violate anyone else's rights or privacy.
    In fact it would be likely, in your example, that of this discussion would likely be happening because Taco would still swamped under posts that say 'Why isn't this in idle?'

    The same goes for any other message board, forum or community site that has visitor interaction. Imagine trying to filter Facebook or Twitter. You say free speech would not be harmed? I'm at a loss to understand how you could believe that.

  • by ChienAndalu ( 1293930 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:17PM (#31260388)

    You are privileging the hypothesis []. Amanda Knox and her Boyfriend are obviously innocent. Rudy Guede is obviously the sole perpetrator.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:34PM (#31260612)

    Dunno, Italian judges are not exactly known for their pro-Berlusconi stance.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @12:37PM (#31260646)

    >This is political.
    >I would wager that this is Berlusconi's way of trying to control the web, you

    I think you don't know much about Italy.

    Even the enemies of Berlusconi would tell you he is not controlling the judges. The majority of judges/prosecutors are leftist; judges/prosecutors cannot basically be removed or fired even if they do something really bad or don't show up for work; there's constant attrition between Berlusconi and judges so much so that the opposite of what you said is true: if a judge can do something against Berlusconi chances are that he will do it.

  • by GasparGMSwordsman ( 753396 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @01:38PM (#31261590)
    Only in certain circumstances. Those circumstances are VERY narrow under US Federal law.

    For example, I could take picture of myself driving a car up the front of the Empire State building and sell those images. What I could not do is claim that the car company or Empire States building was endorsing me or my product.
  • Simple (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @02:33PM (#31262452)

    I think anyone who's been watching Berlusconi's rise in political power, and the means he has employed to do so, and how he has used it to bouy his own media empire, would find it hard to believe he didn't have something to do with that clip appearing on youtube in the first place in order to spark the entire process.

    Look around, its not even the first time HE has pulled something like this, its just now he's employing the tactic against the net rather than his industrial competitors.

  • Re:Good for them (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BeanThere ( 28381 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @02:34PM (#31262466)

    The exact same arguments apply to any kind of online publishing forum that allow individuals to post content --- there is nothing "special" about video. Therefore, by the same logic, I suppose you also believe that online forums such as slashdot should be required to vet every single post a user makes before it goes online, in case it contains anything illegal etc. In fact, what you're saying is that there should not be such a thing as a public publishing forum. In fact, you're defending fascism - maybe unwittingly through stupitidy or maybe maliciously, but the effect is the same. People like you give me the creeps, what a horrible world we'd live in if you had your way in the legal system. This is precisely why Thomas Jefferson said "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants".

  • Re:mod parent up (Score:3, Insightful)

    by somersault ( 912633 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2010 @07:55PM (#31266676) Homepage Journal

    I do think this is a shameful situation, but it's really not YouTube's fault any more than it's Slashdot's fault that people post up ASCII pictures of Goatse, or it would be Google's fault for finding pages full of racial hate or porn or whatever when you search using ambiguous words, etc. These are high traffic public sites and simply would not function with any need for pre-approval.

    Sure, people might upload something to a webpage that you don't want to be there. But they could just as easily email it, IM it, print it out and send it out by snail mail or put it in a self published magazine or newspaper. People are going to be assholes no matter what you do, and punishing the 99.999% of users who aren't abusing services in such a manner because of occasional abuse of the service is IMO simply wrong. By even considering such draconian censorship, you're just letting the assholes win.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson