Three Google executives have been found guilty and given six month suspended sentences in a case revolving around the posting of a video to YouTube which shows a teenager with Down's Syndrome being bullied.
According to the BBC Google itself is none too happy with the verdict, quoting the Chief Legal Office at the search giant, David Drummond, as saying he intends "to vigorously appeal" what he called a "dangerous ruling" which sets "a chilling precedent". Drummond is outraged that individuals at Google were targeted by the Italian prosecutors when they had nothing to do with making the film nor uploading it to YouTube. If they can be found to be criminally liable just because of the positions they hold in the company, Drummond argues, then "every employee of any internet hosting service faces similar liability".
The whole case, which took place in Italy, is somewhat surprising it has to be said. Under Italian law it was argued, and the judge in the case agreed, Google employees were guilty of privacy violations because they did not seek consent from all of the parties featured in the video before publishing it. Ironically, the privacy counsel at Google, Peter Fleischer, was one of those found guilty.
You can't watch the video as Google withdrew it within hours of being alerted to the content, which included the boy suffering from Down's Syndrome being hit with a tissue box and taunted by other teenagers. That, you might imagine, would count for something. After all, given the amount of video footage uploaded to YouTube has recently risen to an astonishing 20 hours per minute, surely you cannot expect the company to screen every single frame for acceptable content before it is released for public consumption can you? As the chaps over at Techdirt point out "rather than filing a suit against Google the company, Italian prosecutors chose to file the lawsuit against four execs at the company, most of whom had nothing to do with the company's Italian operations".
Most of the legal types at Google are confident that the verdict and sentences will be overturned on appeal. Let's hope so, otherwise it has been a very bad week for companies doing business online in Italy and could see the withdrawal of services such as YouTube from the region to prevent similar miscarriages of justice from happening in the future.