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Italian Prosecutors Seek Prison Sentences For Google Execs 197

Posted by Soulskill
from the badda-boom-badda-...-bing? dept.
angry tapir writes "Milan prosecutors have sought prison sentences ranging from six months to one year for four Google executives accused of violating Italy's privacy laws over the posting of a video showing the bullying of a handicapped teenage boy. The prosecutor's request was backed up by a request by lawyers representing the Milan city council for €300,000 (US$452,000) in moral and material damages. The case concerns the posting on Google Video of a three-minute mobile-phone video showing a handicapped boy being tormented by his classmates in a Turin school."
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Italian Prosecutors Seek Prison Sentences For Google Execs

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  • I'm sure glad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mandark1967 (630856) on Thursday November 26, 2009 @10:47AM (#30236894) Homepage Journal

    that those Italian prosecutors are going after the really guilty parties instead of the little, misguided tykes who perpetrated the incident.

    • Re:I'm sure glad (Score:5, Insightful)

      by smitty777 (1612557) on Thursday November 26, 2009 @11:02AM (#30237016) Journal

      Also, what about the person that uploaded the video? They would seem to be the main culprit to me, not Google.

    • Re:I'm sure glad (Score:5, Informative)

      by sznupi (719324) on Thursday November 26, 2009 @11:05AM (#30237052) Homepage

      Not the only time in Italy - media empire of Berlusconi pointing fingers at external factors, the deal with crosses being obviously the fault of Strasburg and not a case of not following your own damn laws, season immigrants from new EU memberstates being put effectively into slavery because of their own fault of not being able to prevent it...it's always easier to look for blame abroad.

      And when you do you actually get to win the popularity contest...

    • Re:I'm sure glad (Score:5, Insightful)

      by somersault (912633) on Thursday November 26, 2009 @11:41AM (#30237348) Homepage Journal

      In recent news, leaders of the BBC were jailed for showing footage of a warzone during a news report. Obviously, they must be entirely responsible for this war.

      Also, it has just been discovered that if you hide a problem, it goes away.

    • Re:I'm sure glad (Score:5, Informative)

      by Shin-LaC (1333529) on Thursday November 26, 2009 @11:58AM (#30237470)
      As stated in comments on the previous Slashdot post on the case, the perpetrators were already prosecuted in 2006.
    • that those Italian prosecutors are going after the really guilty parties instead of the little, misguided tykes who perpetrated the incident.

      What makes you think that the prosecutors aren't going after everyone involved?

      I will admit that what worries me more is that to far too many Slashdot posters the "really guilty party" can't be the geek, no matter what the charge.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Ironsides (739422)

        I will admit that what worries me more is that to far too many Slashdot posters the "really guilty party" can't be the geek, no matter what the charge.

        How about we just look at this case, where google had nothing to do with the assault or the video, other than providing a venue where people could post any video? Google removed the video as soon as they received a complaint. I'd still like to know how Google violated a law here.

        From the article:

        The delay in removing the offensive video was the result of a failure to apply to the right authority, Pisapia said. When the complaint reached Google Inc., which controlled Google Video, the video was removed within hours, he said. "The first complaint went to the wrong address, so the people who had the power to remove it were unaware of the problem." Italian law does not lay any responsibility on hosting providers to monitor the content they upload onto Internet, Pisapia said. "Their only responsibility, established under a 2003 law, is to remove content when ordered to do so by the judicial authorities."

    • by pmontra (738736)
      Those guys had a trial in 2007 but I don't remember the outcome. A non profit organization filed a suit against Google for allowing the video on youtube. They are two different issues and two different trials.
  • by Interoperable (1651953) on Thursday November 26, 2009 @10:50AM (#30236916)
    was to punish the bullies (appropriately scaled to the age of the guilty parties)! The case against Google seems absurd in any case. It hinges on the fact that Google didn't remove the video after it was requested to. The reason was that the request was sent to the wrong address. Google may seem to be omniscient but if they didn't get the notice there is no rational case against them. In any case I doubt they're answerable to Italian law unless the prosecutors could prove to an American court that extradition is warranted.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Extradition? These are Google employees based in Italy.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by palegray.net (1195047)
        You know, with Germany talking about making Google Analytics illegal and now this crap, I'm rapidly losing my patience with those who keep running on about how Europe is such a free place.
        • Troll? Fine, somebody please explain to me how prosecuting Google employees for providing a service that anybody can use to upload videos, and complying with police requests for assistance after the authorities bothered to use the correct contact channels is anything but completely insane.

          The kids involved are the guilty parties; maybe someone should go arrest their parents for failing to raise them properly. Oh, the parents aren't responsible for watching their kids 24 hours a day? Well, it isn't Google's responsibility to take their place.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Ifni (545998)

            I think you missed the memo - Europe is the new Apple and thus is above all recrimination (except for when they try to pass 3 strike laws and justify all of Britain's CCTV cameras). And Americuns is dumbestest and must submit to any and all insults about their intelligence and lack of culture, even if the post itself proves insightful and the poster has demonstrated time and again that (s)he does not fit the mold of the uneducated American.

            In other words, America is universally reviled and you are expected

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              Politically, Europe is not a single entity. Some European countries (e.g. UK, Italy, Greece) are more corrupt than other countries (e.g. Ireland, Finland, Estonia).

              Of course, all countries have bad laws ("three strikes" etc). Some just happen to have more than others, both within and outside EU.

              The reason why U.S. gets more attention than others is because it's the only country which persistently applies the label "Land of the Free", and similar ones, in its political propaganda, with the implication that i

            • by tehcyder (746570)

              I think you missed the memo - Europe is the new Apple

              Steady on, old chap, we're not all gay here.

          • Yes, the original post was a bit light on arguments ;)

            Europe isn't really very close to being a single entity at the moment compared to the US. The laws and cultures in each country vary a lot. Even in the British Isles and little islands around about we have separate law in Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, the Isle of Man, probably different ones in Jersey etc.. I'm not an expert on it all. So just because Italy and Germany (2 of the countries that are a bit more likely to be right wing historically) do

  • Morons (Score:5, Informative)

    by multisync (218450) on Thursday November 26, 2009 @10:50AM (#30236924) Journal

    Punish the kids who were doing the harassing. Google removed the video within a day, once someone actually bothered to contact them about it, and Google cooperated with Italian police:

    The prosecutors had also failed to acknowledge Google's cooperation with the Italian police, Pisapia said. The bullying of the handicapped boy, which had been going on for two years, came to an end after Google identified the person responsible for posting the video and enabled the police to identify the boy's tormentors, he said.

  • by bahbar (982972) on Thursday November 26, 2009 @10:51AM (#30236928)
    He's been commenting on the case itself a little bit here:
    http://peterfleischer.blogspot.com/2009/11/ciao-italia.html [blogspot.com]
    http://peterfleischer.blogspot.com/2009/11/today-in-milan.html [blogspot.com]
    http://peterfleischer.blogspot.com/2009/11/european-law-on-hosting-platforms.html [blogspot.com]
    This last one actually has law information in it.
    • by initialE (758110)

      His lawyers are smart people. Since this case is so obviously farcial, it would be really dangerous to be around town as there is no guarantee that anything resembling justice will be carried out. If you ask me, some other agenda is being carried out here. Someone's being blackmailed, somebody needs leverage. Something.

      • by initialE (758110)

        Just to add a second thought:

        Italy has a legal concept which is unknown in Anglo-Saxon countries: namely, that an employee of a company can be held personally criminally liable for the actions or non-actions of the corporation he works for.

        This is a variant of a dream that many slashdotters have had - to hold executives responsible to the actions of the companies they represent. How bitter it is when an ideal is perverted thus.

  • A lesson to Google (Score:4, Interesting)

    by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Thursday November 26, 2009 @10:52AM (#30236938)

    I hope this serves as a lesson to companies who seem to want the best of all worlds. I'm kind of glad that google is getting hit with this because it brings to light the problem with trying to cater to the demands of local governments. When Google began working with governments in foreign jurisdictions it opened the door to this type of activity.

    Google would have a much more stable leg to stand on if they simply said 'We are a US company, we will follow US laws.' when China asked them to tailor GoogleChina to meet the party demands.

    Similar to safe harbor protections when it comes to ISPs, if you 'fly the flag' of a specific country on the Internet, you are bound by that country's laws. That doesn't mean that the local governments can't block your service, but it should serve as protection when local governments attempt to apply their laws to a foreign company.

    • by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew&gmail,com> on Thursday November 26, 2009 @11:10AM (#30237094) Homepage Journal

      Every international company has to obey laws for that country, or not do business in that country. When the Wolfenstein games were released in Germany, they had to remove all Nazi signs because that is German law.

      Google was told they had to filter search results, or they would be blocked in China. They filter results, but they are the only search engine in China which says right on the search page that the results have been filtered. At least they made a small effort to stand up for free speech while technically complying with China's laws.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Every international company has to obey laws for that country, or not do business in that country. When the Wolfenstein games were released in Germany, they had to remove all Nazi signs because that is German law.

        If I set up a server in not-Germany, I wouldn't have to do a damned thing to alter the content that my website is providing with respect to German law. Germany would be free to block my site, but I am not responsible for the laws of Germany as long as I'm not going into Germany, or attempting to s

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by somersault (912633)

          Just because you can 'see' it on the internet doesn't mean that the act occurred within your country's jurisdiction.

          Apart from the fact that Google.it is registered in Italy, and the video is accessible from google.it

          I hope this serves as a lesson to companies who seem to want the best of all worlds. I'm kind of glad that google is getting hit with this because it brings to light the problem with trying to cater to the demands of local governments. When Google began working with governments in foreign jurisdictions it opened the door to this type of activity.

          Xenophobic much? If Google wants to customise their service depending on which country they're serving, it's their own [censored] business. If you don't like it, nobody's forcing you to use anything Google related. It's not like the US is perfect either.

          • Saying another nation isn't perfect contributes absolutely nothing to the discussion at hand. This is a common, juvenile attempt to misdirect attention.
            • It seemed pretty relevant to me, especially considering it was part of the base of this guy's argument. Yes it would be simpler to keep everything in one country, but in that case I don't think the US is place that would grant the most freedom from oppression or political influence. I'm quite serious about that, though I'm aware it's kind of flame bait around here.

              • I see your points, and think I definitely think they're worth discussion. My only real grip is the tack of deviating from the topic at hand to make a statement about an unrelated nation's issues.
          • Xenophobic much? If Google wants to customise their service depending on which country they're serving, it's their own [censored] business. If you don't like it, nobody's forcing you to use anything Google related. It's not like the US is perfect either.

            Xenophobic? Industrialcomplex seemed to be suggesting that google simply not cater to the -local government's- demands when those demands violate human rights. You're basically equating advocacy of human rights with xenophobia, which is absurd. Xenophobia would be saying "Google should prevent users in China from using their services at all."

            Cultural imperialism might make a little more sense, but the things I assume he was talking about, helping the chinese government with their censoring activities, ar

            • The whole China situation isn't great, but it's better for google to be there and complying with the laws, than for them not to be there at all. Things will change over time. There must be millions of businesses worldwide that interact with China. Google is one of the ones that is more likely to encourage a positive change in their political spectrum.

              I get that there are cultures in the world that could do with a bit of enlightenment, but saying "fuck you" and ignoring them is not going to help. And on top

        • If google had told china to go screw itself, they would have had a defense.

          But they didn't.

          So they lost their effective "common carrier" status and now must comply with the laws of every country on earth.

          The only way around this would be to *not serve* to a country unless it signs up to allow google. The signup would have a complete pass on conforming to laws or a specific list of laws the country really really cared about. Google could then decide if the cost of compliance was worth serving the country.

        • by Omestes (471991) <omestes&gmail,com> on Thursday November 26, 2009 @12:46PM (#30237826) Homepage Journal

          But I consider it to be a tremendous and horrid act to behave in accordance with laws which violate someone's human rights.

          I personally dislike China's ubiquitous censorship, and Google supporting it. But I don't think that internet searches have anything to do with human rights. What right is being infringed upon? Sure, it is still tyranny, but I have grave doubts that there is any right to uncensored internet searches (actually I have grave doubts that there are any innate human rights at all!).

        • Google said they felt it was better to create in-roads and tell people they their government was hiding information from them, than rather be blocked and not reach the Chinese populace at all.

          It is pretty hard to argue with that logic.

    • by markus_baertschi (259069) <markusNO@SPAMmarkus.org> on Thursday November 26, 2009 @11:28AM (#30237232)
      I think it shows how Google lives the 'don't do evil' slogan. They try to be a good citizen everywhere. Unfortunately this is not easy, in Chine a good citizen does not talk about certain things, in the US you are not supposed to hide the same things. Sou you can not be a good citizen in both places at the same time. Google could choose not to be in China, but this would not help matters (it would be blocked by the great firewall).
      • I do believe you are correct. In this situation Google is not in a good position.

        I admit I'm a bit of a hardliner when it comes to freedom. I will do my best to NOT engage in commerce with an entity that will use that money to further their cause of limiting freedom. It does mean that some of my goods cost more (hardly anywhere close to the 2x that many apologists claim), but it is working out well for me so far.

        Convincing our politicians to do something about it so that one US company attempting to 'be

      • by Vellmont (569020)


        I think it shows how Google lives the 'don't do evil' slogan. They try to be a good citizen everywhere.

        Exactly! And in Soviet Russia "being a good citizen" means turning in dissidents. In North Korea it means never ever saying anything bad about the Government. In eastern Congo it means tolerating rape and violence against women. In Nazi Germany.... Yup, it's all just a days work in "don't be evil".

        This kind of moral relativism run amok is not "don't be evil". I'm not willing to start saying Google ha

    • by westlake (615356)

      Similar to safe harbor protections when it comes to ISPs, if you 'fly the flag' of a specific country on the Internet, you are bound by that country's laws.

      You are also bound by the laws of the country in which you do business.

      The Italian client expects to see an Italian presence in sales and development when he speaks to Google or he will take his money elsewhere.

    • by ultranova (717540)

      Google would have a much more stable leg to stand on if they simply said 'We are a US company, we will follow US laws.' when China asked them to tailor GoogleChina to meet the party demands.

      Google is not a US company, it is an international company with physical assets - datacenters, mostly - all around the world.

      Similar to safe harbor protections when it comes to ISPs, if you 'fly the flag' of a specific country on the Internet, you are bound by that country's laws. That doesn't mean that the local govern

  • Strike 2 (Score:5, Funny)

    by Rik Sweeney (471717) on Thursday November 26, 2009 @10:58AM (#30236990) Homepage

    Strike 1 [cnn.com]

    That's strike 2, Google. If you put one more foot wrong I'm changing my homepage over to Bing.

  • Lesson for Google (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SharpFang (651121) on Thursday November 26, 2009 @10:59AM (#30237002) Homepage Journal

    If anyone posts video of someone performing some illegal activity, delete it ASAP, don't tell anyone and sweep everything under the rug. The video was never there, you never saw anything and I'm sorry, Officer that I can't help you, am I free to go now?

    At least that's what the court is trying to teach them.

  • by lordholm (649770) on Thursday November 26, 2009 @11:05AM (#30237046) Homepage
    Since Italy is in the EU, they are bound by the directive of e-commerse, especially articles 14 (hosting) and 15 (no obligation to monitor) are important:

    Article 14 Hosting
    1. Where an information society service is provided that consists of the storage of information provided by a recipient of the service, Member States shall ensure that the service provider is not liable for the information stored at the request of a recipient of the service, on condition that: (a) the provider does not have actual knowledge of illegal activity or information and, as regards claims for damages, is not aware of facts or circumstances from which the illegal activity or information is apparent; or (b) the provider, upon obtaining such knowledge or awareness, acts expeditiously to remove or to disable access to the information.
    2. Paragraph 1 shall not apply when the recipient of the service is acting under the authority or the control of the provider.
    3. This Article shall not affect the possibility for a court or administrative authority, in accordance with Member States' legal systems, of requiring the service provider to terminate or prevent an infringement, nor does it affect the possibility for Member States of establishing procedures governing the removal or disabling of access to information.

    Article 15 No general obligation to monitor
    1. Member States shall not impose a general obligation on providers, when providing the services covered by Articles 12, 13 and 14, to monitor the information which they transmit or store, nor a general obligation actively to seek facts or circumstances indicating illegal activity.
    2. Member States may establish obligations for information society service providers promptly to inform the competent public authorities of alleged illegal activities undertaken or information provided by recipients of their service or obligations to communicate to the competent authorities, at their request, information enabling the identification of recipients of their service with whom they have storage agreements.

    There is no discussion about it, they cannot be found guilty under EU legislation, and if Italy still sentences them, the Italian government can be dragged into the European court of justice, where they will most likely be found to be in violation of the e-commerce directive.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      It is worth noting, however, that directives like this are not self-implementing (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Directive_(European_Union)) [wikipedia.org]. The Italian government is required by EU treaties to pass laws implementing the directive, but in an Italian court you cannot appeal directly to the directive itself. So the key question here is the wording of the relevant Italian law.
      • The Italian government is required by EU treaties to pass laws implementing the directive, but in an Italian court you cannot appeal directly to the directive itself.

        I may be misunderstanding this, but if Google was to be found guilty under the Italian laws as they stand, but those laws are not compliant with the EU treaty in question, couldn't Google then proceed to sue Italy in European court?

  • by starfishsystems (834319) on Thursday November 26, 2009 @11:24AM (#30237190) Homepage
    Google executives will have to take their place in line.

    I plan to launch a similar action against these Italian politicians. After all, it was their country in which the crime took place. They stood by and permitted it to happen, didn't they?

    To make matters worse, they haven't even responded to my letter demanding an apology. That's right. I sent it to Gino's Italian Deli in Montreal. It says "Italian Politicians" right on the envelope, so I know that it was addressed properly. If there was any doubt, it could have been forwarded to the Italian postal service.

    There is no excuse. These people are criminals.
  • by DJRumpy (1345787) on Thursday November 26, 2009 @11:27AM (#30237226)

    Unless these execs posted the videos personally, why are they trying to hold Google responsible? What kind of mob law does Italy follow? What was done to the boy was reprehensible, and by all means, punish the people who did this to him. I seriously doubt these execs even knew this video existed until someone told them they had been charged. Allowing public anger to dictate who can be charged as a criminal when they have done nothing wrong is just stupid not to put too fine a point on it.

    • by canajin56 (660655) on Thursday November 26, 2009 @12:34PM (#30237726)
      As I recall, Google pulled the video within an hour of being notified it was even posted, and identified for police the IP address of the poster, allowing them to catch the actual bullies. The prosecutor is hoping to springboard into real politics by making a name for himself as the man who takes on big evil corporations, and the fact that they did everything right, and broke now laws, and cooperated with police extremely promptly, none of that matters.
      • by initialE (758110)

        "Does not play well with others." That's the big sign this prosecutor is holding up. The next time he needs a major corporation to assist in finding and identifying a criminal... well, it's going to get interesting.

  • by OrangeTide (124937) on Thursday November 26, 2009 @11:36AM (#30237304) Homepage Journal

    They should just blacklist blocks of IPs used by Italian law enforcement and legislature for a few weeks from all of Google's services. The Italian government might be able to arrest them if they visit Italy, but Google can deal with them if they go on the Internet.

    • by laffer1 (701823)

      Cut off the whole country. They don't want Google in their country.. it can be arranged.

  • The only reason for prosecuting the Google Execs is: It gives more kudos (not within the /. community and only if they win) and press coverage for the prosecutors. So they take the gamble, since most judges are so incompetent about everything concerning the internet.
  • Like the image of Obama's wife as a money on images.google.com, and everyone seeing an image of a money when they type in her name....it was all their fault for creating such a great search engine that someone could post an image of a money to the web and call it what ever name.

    Same thing here , the video is clearly google's fault for letting the video happen, I mean they should have had a multi billion software that is in place and is smart enough to watch the video, and know what is happening and be able

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This has nothing to do with the bullies or who uploaded the video but rather our corrupt politicians and their never ending fear of the Internet as a mean for free expression and communications. A few months ago they even made a law proposal for taking restrictive measures (no anonimity), officially to protect children, but the freely downloadable document metadata of the law proposal contained the address of the president of the Italian union of audiovisual publishers. So much for protecting children! That

    • Actually, this story is REALLY about the italians who keep electing these corrupt politicians over and over. Berlusconi makes Bush look competent and a nice guy and italians just can't seem to get enough of him.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by orzetto (545509)

      Yet, those very corrupt politicians are pushing the "fast trial" reform, which will cancel this trial, since the facts date back to 2006.

      Under the proposed (and likely going to be approved, unless they figure out something worse) fast-trial law, any trial lasting more than 2 years (counting from end of investigations) in any of the three degrees of appeal of the Italian justice system will be considered a mistrial. The average duration of a trial is currently 7 and a half years, you do the math.

      The reason i

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      that criminal bastard named Silvio Berlusconi

      I find that offensive to bastards.

  • Plain and simple money grab attempt. Shame on these "officials". How about more concern about the victim?

  • If you beat someone up, and brag about it by recording it to a video, you get away.
    But don’t dare to tell anyone about it, or you go to jail!

    It’s like the censorship in Germany: They are actively protecting and supporting what they say they want to prevent.
    With the motto “If we close our eyes to rape, it ceases to exist!”.

  • Way to go Italy, for blaming your own society's shortcomings on a foreign company. That'll sure solve the problem of bullying handicapped people.
    I guess McDonalds is to blame for the maffia?

  • They should close up their office and their next homepage image should be of a stereotypical Italian mobster chucking toxic waste into the sea for their government along with some bodies.
  • I want to sincerely congratulate the nation of Italy. It's great to see that you're continuing that time-honoured tradition of evil governments stomping on the face of free speech. Mussolini would be proud.

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