Google execs found guilty of allowing video to be posted to YouTube

The BBC News is reporting that an Italian court has convicted three Google executives over footage showing a teenager with Down's Syndrome being bullied, which was posted to YouTube.

The Three Google executives were convicted of violating privacy laws over the footage. The execs were David Drummond, Senior Vice President, George De Los Reyes, ex financial executive and privacy Chief Peter Fleischer. The case is the first time a web company has been held criminally liable for user posted content and has raised serious concerns how internet platforms could continue to operate if the decision is held.

David Drummond, chief legal officer at Google spoke to the BBC and said he was "outraged" by the decision. "I intend to vigorously appeal this dangerous ruling. It sets a chilling precedent," he said.

The video itself was uploaded by four school students who were later expelled from their school in Turin, Italy. The bullies were also convicted in a youth court. Google's lawyers argued that the company could not be held responsible for content uploaded to the service and that pre-screening all YouTube content was impossible. Over 20 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

In a company blog posting on Wednesday, Matt Sucherman, Google VP and Deputy General Counsel of Europe said it was "outrageous" that the employees faced trial at all. "We are deeply troubled by this conviction for another equally important reason. It attacks the very principles of freedom on which the Internet is built. Common sense dictates that only the person who films and uploads a video to a hosting platform could take the steps necessary to protect the privacy and obtain the consent of the people they are filming."

The three Google executives received six month suspended sentences after being found guilty of violating Italian privacy laws. An appeal court is expected to hear the case later this year. A Google spokesperson confirmed "we and our employees will vigorously appeal this decision."

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There's absolutely nothing wrong with the Italian court's ruling. Google need to learn that they are NOT above the law. Yes, they need to police the content they provide on YouTube. They need to ensure that every piece of content is not in breach of copyright and they need to ensure that all proper permissions have been obtained.

If they can't do this then they are effectively out of business. Can't say I'll miss them.

so in italy, if i happened to film a crime in-process, then share it in anyway (police, general public, etc), i will be convicted

There's no way in hell Google/Youtube could put in the required man hours to screen all videos for inappropriate content.... I mean, i dunno.... I think they could fight it on the grounds that this content is not like copyright infringing content.... It can't be filtered out using a computer. It has to be manually viewed... The best they could do to stop it is to develop a program to flag certain videos on upload that have certain words/phrases in it (like "me beating up a 7th grader").. But even then, people could just make a generic description, or no description at all, to bypass content filters....

There's really no economical way for them to be able to stop this... Viewing all new content would be an EPIC undertaking that would take not hundreds but THOUSANDS, probably TENS of thousands, of employees screening vids for inappropriate content. This is a FREE, solely AD SUPPORTED site... this undertaking cannot be achieved without charging users a ton of subscription fees.... and no one will pay them. They'll just build a new one, and govts/courts will just have to start over again with this type of regulation.

Bottom line is, courts are out of their freaking minds if they think they can "control" the largest and most bandwidth intensive website on the internet.

Since Italy is suing for hosting a video of violence, maybe they should sue Italy for having the violence in the first place. After all, it's their city and they should police every action that occurs there, right? Italy is hosting the act of violence itself, rather than just a video of it.

Well I think it's pretty odd. The uploader of the video should be held accountable for the content they upload. I would be quite happy for that person to be prosecuted instead of the content distributers!
Sometimes the nets privacy works against itself.

Uhh this kinda thing grinds my gears, it's not Google's fault some boys bullied somebody, Dell doesn't get done for somebody having child porn on a Dell PC :/

Does this case define future law for Italy? If so, this a big step towards the restricted intenet that the Italian PM wants

mealies said,
Does this case define future law for Italy? If so, this a big step towards the restricted intenet that the Italian PM wants

time for the italian people to vote differently and speak up against censorship.
do it asap and CLEARLY.

btw: INCREDIBLY stupid ruling/law
italian politics is full of sh**.

Glassed Silver:mac

burnblue said,
Google Video! Why do people keep saying Youtube, don't you read?

youtube.com =/= video.google.com

but in the deep, it is almost the same: same owner, same service and same technology, just they are using different front-end and giving different features.

They said: 'Common sense dictates that only the person who films and uploads a video to a hosting platform could take the steps necessary to protect the privacy and obtain the consent of the people they are filming.'

Does this also mean that the people who committed the atrocities at Auschwitz and other places were guilty while the Nazi party had 'the necassay consent' from their 'customers'?

'Don't do evil'.

Google are finished.

greatscot said,
They said: 'Common sense dictates that only the person who films and uploads a video to a hosting platform could take the steps necessary to protect the privacy and obtain the consent of the people they are filming.'

Does this also mean that the people who committed the atrocities at Auschwitz and other places were guilty while the Nazi party had 'the necassay consent' from their 'customers'?

'Don't do evil'.

Google are finished.

Is even worst.

Those bullies did not profit from such videos while Google did it.

greatscot said,
Does this also mean that the people who committed the atrocities at Auschwitz and other places were guilty while the Nazi party had 'the necassay consent' from their 'customers'?
I can't parse this for any reasonable meaning.

Interesting that Google Execs get prosecuted for not deleting a video of a Down's Syndrome child being abused, and yet here in the UK the courts are used to protect those that sexually abuse a Down's Syndrome child. The Hollie Grieg story is scandalous. What a twisted world we live in.

boho said,
Interesting that Google Execs get prosecuted for not deleting a video of a Down's Syndrome child being abused, and yet here in the UK the courts are used to protect those that sexually abuse a Down's Syndrome child. The Hollie Grieg story is scandalous. What a twisted world we live in.

It's twisted in that the criminal/terrorist/bad guy has more rights than the victims.

PGHammer said,

It's twisted in that the criminal/terrorist/bad guy has more rights than the victims.

It's unfortunate, but it almost seems like that's the direction we're going in... In the US they're worried more it seems of protecting the rights of pedophiles... It's outrageous...

What I find disturbing is the fact that these irresponsible children thought about bullying in the first place. Next is that they then wanted to share their pathetic actions with the world. Third that they are being given a voice anywhere.
Google may well know that inflammatory and offensive things are on Youtube. At he rate of 20 hours of footage a minute being posted they can not have people checking every video. Software as of yet, unless I am wrong can not scan video and even if it could it would not be sophisticated enough to do it at the rate mentioned above.
By biggest concern however is that if this ruling is upheld then we as free people are going to find our basic right of freedom that is free speech erode even further. Don't give me the crape about giving up some freedom for security is needed rubbish. People need to realise that THEY and not a public hosted enviroment are to blame for content.
The world is awash of this 'blame someone else culture'. How can someone else be blamed for YOUR actions, thata defies any logic. If you complain here about that, please think about what it could make you look like.

Yes it was wrong for that video to be posted on any site. Yes it was wrong to be made. So is that Googles fault as well, NO! These kids should have been brought up better so if kids can have not been raised better then the parents are to blame.
As for the victim of the bullying was it that child that brought the case against Google or the parents or some lawyer that wanted to make a name for themselves?
I am an advocate of free speech and personal responsibility, if you had not guessed and the only blame here is firmly on the kids that made the video and the parents of those kids.
I hate to say it as I have many complaints about Google (other reasons) but Google is not responsible in this case. Only guilty of it not being reported by those that watched it (probably to busy laughing) and removed any quicker.

Sorry for the rant hope it does not upset anyone?

Stingray2008 said,
Software as of yet, unless I am wrong can not scan video and even if it could it would not be sophisticated enough to do it at the rate mentioned above.

Software can scan video (that's how they automatically detect copyright infringement), but it is definitely not sophisticated enough to catch someone abusing someone else. I don't even know how you would begin to recognize that. Even people watching would probably have to think about it (for a short period) to determine if it was abuse or a joke.

Stingray2008 said,

The world is awash of this 'blame someone else culture'. How can someone else be blamed for YOUR actions, thata defies any logic.
These kids should have been brought up better so if kids can have not been raised better then the parents are to blame.
Hang on, in one sentence you say that only you are responsible for your actions and you can't blame anyone else. Then in the next you say that parents have to bear some of it. Kind of a contradiction.

Edited by duneworld, Feb 24 2010, 10:54pm :

pickypg said,

Software can scan video (that's how they automatically detect copyright infringement), but it is definitely not sophisticated enough to catch someone abusing someone else. I don't even know how you would begin to recognize that. Even people watching would probably have to think about it (for a short period) to determine if it was abuse or a joke.

True. It sounds to me like the issue was that this violated Italy's privacy laws, so the issue was that they did not have the permission of the kid they were beating up to put it on YouTube? That's what I took from it anyway. And I can't see a way for Google to get permission of all of the people in these various videos...

M_Lyons10 said,
And I can't see a way for Google to get permission of all of the people in these various videos...

From the legal angle, I believe you are spot on. I am not even sure why they would be expected to get the permission of everyone in a video, and if they required it upfront, then I have no idea how they'd be expected to determine if they really had everyone or not.

I am just shocked. I realize convicting executives is done to send a message, but the message is that Italian courts do not understand technology, at all, and they are trying to completely stop technology from progressing (impossible to host anything if everyone possibly involved must submit a permission slip).

Google stole 485 Million dollars from their customers by taking profits from URL's that web surfers mistyped. If they have the time to do that then hire the necessary people and put into effect the necessary software to at least give some sort of sence that they are trying to do the right thing.They are no better then the torrent sites, except they ARE holding onto the illegal data and serving it.
What... Does everyone think that Google is unaware of what is going on with their business...

So you're saying that because you don't like what Google does at other fields of the market, some of their employees should go to jail for something completely unrelated?

Let me guess. You think Google is starting a conspiracy against the world and they uploaded this movie their selves to make their first step at world domination?

Ontopic: This is a black day in internet history. Because lawyers don't seem to understand anything about the internet and computers, they keep coming up with the most ridiculous things.
I don't see the architect of a building getting sued because some punk sprayed a Swastika on it...

Edited by RuuddieBoy, Feb 24 2010, 2:24pm :

Night Prowler said,
Google stole 485 Million dollars from their customers by taking profits from URL's that web surfers mistyped.
stealing how? Did the people mystyping the URLs loose any money? You are probably referring to advertising on DNS error pages? That very common, a lot of ISPs do it, but I haven't seen Google doing that either to be honest... Type some unexisting URL in Chrome, like fsddghdsghsdhsdfhdsg.com, and it takes you to a clean error page. Google's DNS service isn't serving ads either, which other services like OpenDNS are known for.

Menthix said,
stealing how? Did the people mystyping the URLs loose any money? You are probably referring to advertising on DNS error pages? That very common, a lot of ISPs do it, but I haven't seen Google doing that either to be honest... Type some unexisting URL in Chrome, like fsddghdsghsdhsdfhdsg.com, and it takes you to a clean error page. Google's DNS service isn't serving ads either, which other services like OpenDNS are known for.

He's referring to cyber squatters raking in Ad revenue from/for Google. The so-called "domain tasters" of the past would just post ads on domains that have not been paid for (or are specifically paid for to catch typos, such as gogole.com, if Google didn't actually own it).

Google eventually put a stop to it, and ICANN did its part by making it much harder to domain taste (it was mostly ICANN's doing that stopped it, but the uproar gave Google a lot of bad press). Google mostly went unnoticed afterwards, as they pocketed very close to half a billion dollars.

Ryoken said,
Google should just block Italy, as clearly it's not safe to operate there.

+1
I'm starting to think that American companies are being singled out by European countries for these absurd court rulings. Remember eBay and the French ruling about Nazi items? The items were legal where they were posted, and were not against eBay policy at the time. France wanted to apply their laws simply because people in their country were able to access the site.

At least in this case the people uploading the videos were in the country in question. What I don't understand (because I've not seen the video) is how this violates any privacy laws? If the video was taken in a public place, there is no expectation of privacy.

roadwarrior said,
I'm starting to think that American companies are being singled out by European countries for these absurd court rulings.
You hear about US companies because they are generally the big ones, and are English language. Stuff that happens to French/Italian language websites you just aren't going to hear about due to the language barrier and the lack of personal interest.

Ryoken said,
Google should just block Italy, as clearly it's not safe to operate there.

This is certainly a case where Google needs to validate some new YouTube process with the Italian government or simply pull out of Italy. As it is now, someone could put something on YouTube and cause the Google execs to serve jail time.

Shadrack said,

This is certainly a case where Google needs to validate some new YouTube process with the Italian government or simply pull out of Italy. As it is now, someone could put something on YouTube and cause the Google execs to serve jail time.

Which is absolutely ridiculous. I just can't see how they could be considered liable. How are these kids not responsible for their own actions? THEY uploaded the video...

I'm no Google fan, but this is really ridiculous...

Up next, with your youtube upload, fax us copies of all the release forms signed by everyone in the video...... I liked it better when a company was a dumb pipe concept and the users who put the stuff up where the responsible ones

Stupid ruling, you can't police things like that but they really should have removed the video much earlier. 2 months is a bit much. There should be an obvious, easy to see feedback button, not a little flag icon that means nothing at a glance. I didn't even notice it till I actually looked in the abuse and policy centre after going through contact us at the bottom of a youtube page.

WooHoo!!! said,
Stupid ruling, you can't police things like that but they really should have removed the video much earlier. 2 months is a bit much. There should be an obvious, easy to see feedback button, not a little flag icon that means nothing at a glance. I didn't even notice it till I actually looked in the abuse and policy centre after going through contact us at the bottom of a youtube page.

Was that 2 months from when it was requested that the video be taken down? I think that's the only time frame that should be considered here. When asked to take it down how fast did Google do that?

nub said,
Total bull****

Yeah. This is what happens when lawmakers don't understand the technology. It's like those suggested laws of making the ISP's more responsible for what their users do, like catching file sharing. It's impossible. As large as Google is, even they don't have time to wade through everything on YouTube.

It'd be funny if they blocked Italy from YouTube, following this. And displayed a fat red sign for people logging in from there, giving the contact details to the government of Italy. "Unfortunately, to maintain cooperation with your government, you are restricted access to this web site."

Edited by Northgrove, Feb 24 2010, 5:44pm :

Google's lawyers argued that the company could not be held responsible for content uploaded to the service and that pre-screening all YouTube content was impossible.

It's as simple as that. Youtube is a user-content based service that cannot possibly be policed 100% of the time, 24/7. The best Youtube could do is remove videos that users have logged complaints with.

In addition, having a video of some poor child being bullied is not illegal. Yes, it's horribly inappropriate and disgusting, but that doesn't make it illegal. I would say that the video is offensive, and if enough users agreed then it should be taken down, but only then.

This ruling is retarded.

spacer said,
In addition, having a video of some poor child being bullied is not illegal. Yes, it's horribly inappropriate and disgusting, but that doesn't make it illegal.

I disagree with the decision, but you're wrong here. The case was in Italy, and clearly, the video was illegal under Italian privacy laws, hence the ruling.

AJCrowley Esq said,

I disagree with the decision, but you're wrong here. The case was in Italy, and clearly, the video was illegal under Italian privacy laws, hence the ruling.

Well, they might lose ad revenue but maybe they should consider blocking Italy so this thing doesn't happen again. These Google execs could have to serve jail time over this. But it looks like their sentence was suspended.

AJCrowley Esq said,

I disagree with the decision, but you're wrong here. The case was in Italy, and clearly, the video was illegal under Italian privacy laws, hence the ruling.

Italian privacy laws that they need the approval of all the people in the video to post it? Hardly something that Google can be responsible for... I say if a request is made of Google to take it down they can and that's fair, but I cannot see how they can be criminally liable...