Three senior Google executives have received six-month suspended sentences after they unreasonably delayed taking down an internet video showing an autistic boy being attacked and beaten up.
The Daily Mail reports the footage of the autistic teenager was posted on Google Video in September 2006. It shows him being set upon by four sadistic bullies at a school in Turin, Italy. Apparently the video was number one in the 'most viewed' chart for two months before being removed.
A court in Milan ruled the video violated the boy's privacy and execs David Drummond (former head of Google Italy and now senior vice president), George De Los Reyes (a retired financial executive), and Peter Fleischer (privacy director) should have acted more quickly to take it off the internet. In so doing, it rejected Google's argument that it was impractical to veto the hundreds of thousands of videos posted on its sites.
Google have indicated they will appeal the decision, which they described as "astonishing."
Spokesman Bill Echikson said: "We are deeply troubled by this decision. It attacks the principles of freedom on which the internet was built."
The U.S. ambassador to Italy, David Throne, also condemned the court's decision: "This founding principle of internet freedom is vital for democracies which recognise freedom of expression and is safeguarded by all who take this value to heart.
"In January Secretary of State Hilary Clinton expressed clearly that freedom of the internet is a human right that is to be protected in free societies.
"In all countries it is important to keep a careful eye out for abuse, nevertheless offensive material should not become an excuse to violate this fundamental right.''
As for the Google executives, Peter Fleischer said: "The judge has decided I'm primarily responsible for the actions of some teenagers who uploaded a reprehensible video to Google Video." He added ironically that he had devoted his career to "preserving and protecting personal privacy rights."
The Guardian reports David Drummond was also "outraged" by the decision. "This verdict sets a dangerous precedent," he said. "(It also) imperils the powerful tool that an open and free internet has become for social advocacy and change."