About seven years ago, a video was uploaded to YouTube featuring a group of school kids bullying an autistic child. This led to three Google executives – David Drummond, Peter Fleischer (pictured) and George Reyes – being convicted in 2010 by a judge in Milan on grounds of “failure to comply with the Italian privacy code,” though Google said it had removed the video after being notified, and had worked with Italian authorities to help identify the person responsible for uploading it.
“In essence this ruling means that employees of hosting platforms like Google Video are criminally responsible for content that users upload,” wrote Matt Sucherman, Google VP and Deputy General Counsel – Europe, Middle East and Africa at the time. “We will appeal this astonishing decision because the Google employees on trial had nothing to do with the video in question.”
It didn’t end there, however. The three executives are heading back to court, as the prosecutor has appealed the acquittal, reports ComputerWorld. The publication points to a personal blog post from Fleischer, who writes:
In December of last year, an Italian Court of Appeals overturned my conviction—as well as that of two other Googlers—for violating Italian privacy law in a case that stemmed from a user-uploaded video. I was pleased that well-reasoned legal principles had prevailed, and was hopeful that that would be the end of this long saga. Last week, however, the Italian prosecutor appealed the Court’s decision to the Court of Cassation (the Italian Supreme Court). This case, unfortunately, is not over. In its appeal to the Court of Cassation, the Italian prosecutor asserts—in addition to arguing that employees like me can be held criminally responsible for user-uploaded videos that we had no knowledge of and nothing to do with—that platforms like YouTube should be responsible for prescreening user-uploaded content and obtaining the consent of people shown in user-uploaded videos. I, and the many others who have voiced their support, view this as a threat to freedom of expression on the Internet. I’m disappointed that this case is not over, but continue to believe that ultimately justice will prevail.
If justice does not ultimately prevail, then this could create some pretty big problems for the user-generated content Internet that we’ve all come to know and love. We discussed this back when the execs were convicted.