Four Google executives are on trial today in Milan, Italy over a video that was published to Google Video in 2006. If found guilt, they could face jail time for a video that they were not involved directly in handling. Yes, the are facing personal criminal charges and possible jail time, for something they didn't do.
According to a Google spokesman, three of the executives being charged are David Drummond, Google’s senior VP and chief legal officer; George Reyes, former CFO; and Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel. The fourth executive worked at Google Video in London, however the person's name has not been identified.
The video in question was posted to Google Video in 2006 and shows four kids in Turin, Italy harassing another kid that suffers from Down Syndrome. The video was removed from the site after an Italian advocacy group complained about the video. Prosecutors are arguing that the video should never have been published in the first place. Do they really expect sites that allow users submitted content to be screened first? In my opinion, the system worked as it should; The video was reported and removed. If any legal charges are justified here, they should not be directed at Google, but rather the kids that did the harassment or their parents.
Google issued a statement on the matter:
"As we have repeatedly made clear, our hearts go out to the victim and his family. We are pleased that as a result of our cooperation the bullies in the video have been identified and punished. We feel that bringing this case to court is totally wrong. It’s akin to prosecuting mail service employees for hate speech letters sent in the post. What’s more, seeking to hold neutral platforms liable for content posted on them is a direct attack on a free, open Internet. We will continue to vigorously defend our employees in this prosecution."
If the court rules against Google in this case, it could have a strong impact on any site that allows photos and videos to be published. Not just sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Flickr but also blog, personal sites, and even sites like OverclockersClub.com.