Italian Prosecutor Still Wants To Put Google Execs In Jail Because Of A Video Uploaded By Some Kids

from the secondary-liability-mess dept

Back in 2008 we were amazed that prosecutors in Italy were seeking to put four Google execs in jail, claiming that they were liable for a video that was uploaded to Google video, showing some kids mocking another child who is autistic. Google even took down the video after being notified of it -- and the video itself was evidence used to go after the kids for their actions. And yet, for reasons that still make no sense, prosecutors deemed that four Google execs should be found criminally liable for the fact that some kids uploaded that video. The execs in question did not taunt the child. They did not make the video. They did not upload the video. They were unaware of the video's existence. It is solely because they work at Google, and Google was a tool used by these kids to incriminate themselves, that prosecutors went after them.

Making matters even more ridiculous, three of the four execs were then found guilty and given "suspended" 6 month jail sentences (meaning they didn't actually have to go to jail). A reading of the ruling by an Italian legal expert noted that the judge appeared to confuse different parts of the law to come to that conclusion. Part of the issue was that because some users "complained" in the Google Video comments, prosecutors claim that Google should have known and taken down the video (because, they apparently think that people at Google read every single comment).

Google appealed, of course, and Italian prosecutors are still arguing that the execs belong in jail for reasons that still escape me. At best, all this is doing is telling tech execs to not do business in Italy, because the country apparently has completely wacky secondary liability laws that mean you might be criminally liable (i.e., face jailtime) if anyone uses your service to do something mean to another person. The easiest way to avoid that kind of liability: don't do business in Italy at all.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 7:24am

    Italian Liability

    ...wacky secondary liability laws that mean you might be criminally liable...

    ...for failing to predict seismic events.

     

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      lostalaska (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 5:20pm

      Re: Italian Liability

      This just in... Italian courts and the politics it plays hates scientists, science and all technology! It's a shame they've had some great thinkers in that country in the past

       

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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 7:25am

    Simple solution

    Just disable Google search and ads for Italy or Italian companies, and see how long it takes for these pinheads to be disabused of their ignorance...

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 8:48am

      Re: Simple solution

      Just turn of all the video and photo sharing sites in Italy, and see how long before a revolution happens.

       

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    out_of_the_blue, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 7:26am

    ALWAYS excusing Google.

    "The prosecutors accused Google of negligence, saying the video remained online for two months even though some Web users had already posted comments asking for it to be taken down."

    Mike doesn't mention the time frame. I think this a good case to draw the line for corporations having SOME responsibility to police content. Mike's position is that Google execs have NO responsibility. His consistent position is that corporations and executives get only benefits without responsibilities. My bet is that the execs took Mike's legalistic position of NO responsibility and that enraged reasonable people, when those execs should have said "sorry, horrible oversight, won't happen again".

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 7:28am

      Re: ALWAYS excusing Google.

      Yet another mindless anti-coperate screed. posted via a coperate-made device no doubt

       

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    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
       
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      out_of_the_blue, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 7:31am

      Re: ALWAYS excusing Google.

      Addendum: Italian has a legal system in which (as I recall) judges can prosecute and prosecutors can bend the letter of the law to bring in moral aspects.

      It's likely another case of ugly Americans ignorant of local differences, and not caring. Note Mike's similar application of American law practice and his rare outraged tone.

       

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        Alex Macfie (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 7:44am

        Re: Re: ALWAYS excusing Google.

        As far as I'm concerned, the immorality lies with the perpetrators of the bullying act and then uploaded the video. People who are keen to blame Google seem to forget the real villains in this saga (who, incidentally, all got off with non-custodial sentences).

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 7:51am

        Re: Re: ALWAYS excusing Google.

        "Addendum: Italian has a legal system in which (as I recall) judges can prosecute and prosecutors can bend the letter of the law to bring in moral aspects."

        You'd feel right at home there, ootb!

         

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      ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 7:32am

      Re: ALWAYS excusing Google.

      Who reads YouTube comments? Not even Google employees, apparently.

       

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        Alex Macfie (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 7:46am

        Re: Re: ALWAYS excusing Google.

        One can no more expect Google to read all YouTube comments than newsagents and distributors of publications to read every line of text in the publications that they sell/distribute.

         

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      Cory of PC (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 7:34am

      Re: ALWAYS excusing Google.

      Why should we take you seriously?

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 7:42am

      Re: ALWAYS excusing Google.

      I think what out_of_the_blue is saying here is that they're offering to personally screen all of YouTube's videos to make sure they don't offend anyone somewhere. Better get started there, champ, only 78 billion to go!

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 10:37am

        Re: Re: ALWAYS excusing Google.

        There is only one way to avoid offending someone, and that is dead silence, no text,speech,photos or videos. Therefor the job is easy, just remove them all.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 11:18am

          Re: Re: Re: ALWAYS excusing Google.

          Your lack of response and silence is offensive to me...

          I demand that you state your opinion, show me your videos and photos or I will be offended.

          Need more input...

           

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      Leigh Beadon (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 8:06am

      Re: ALWAYS excusing Google.

      In that case blue, better hope no country passes a law against stupidity or childishness, or we'll have to start deleting your comments.

       

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        G Thompson (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 6:53pm

        Re: Re: ALWAYS excusing Google.

        Couldn't we just say (for the moment anyway) that all of ootb's comments come via a convoluted route from Vernon County, Wisconsin.

        Then you could delete his comments based on the following ordinance [#2012-3] that they just passed.
        Whoever sends information to another person by electronic means with the intent to annoy, offend, demean, ridicule, degrade, belittle, disparage, or humiliate any person and which serves no legitimate purpose shall be required to forfeit not less than $50.00 nor more than $500 together with the cost of prosecution and in default of payment shall be sentenced to the County Jail until such forfeiture and costs are paid, not exceeding 30 days.[emphasis added]
        ;)

        [found via popehat ]

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 8:37am

      Re: ALWAYS excusing Google.

      I think this a good case to draw the line for corporations having SOME responsibility to police content.

      The problem is you're arguing negligence which is a civil matter. How can executives be CRIMINALLY responsible for what a corporation does?

      I don't disagree that there should be a slightly better notification system, but if you allow users to just flag videos, you're going to get into levels where users can basically implement DMCA takedowns and censor content with just a click.... and that violates the concept of a free and open internet.

      Note that freedom means we allow people to do bad things- you can't be free and unable to do wrong.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 8:53am

      Re: ALWAYS excusing Google.

      "Mike doesn't mention the time frame."

      Mike clearly mentioned the time frame. VIDEO REMAINED ONLINE FOR TWO MONTHS.

      "I think this a good case to draw the line for corporations having SOME responsibility to police content."

      Please. You are on here day in and day out bitching constantly how they should police content. This case however is NOT a good one for what you want, policing content.

      Simply put, free speech is free speech. Even if some of it is speech you don't agree with. I have an autistic niece. I would be disheartened and pissed if someone posted a video online making fun of her. But being a person who thinks rationally and uses that thing between their ears (brain) I would know that the people to hold responsible for the video are THOSE WHO MADE THE VIDEO AND UPLOADED IT. Not the execs of a company whose product/service was used to upload and put the video online for people to see.

      "Mike's position is that Google execs have NO responsibility."

      That's not Mike's position, that's anyone with an ounce of of a brain's reasoning. And definitely the position of anyone who can realize that there needs to be a level of personal responsibility in this day and age, as opposed to blaming others (Google) for the actions of people they have no control over (websites/users/etc).

      "His consistent position is that corporations and executives get only benefits without responsibilities."

      No, that is not his consistent position. That is YOUR opinion of what you THINK his position his, but sadly reality would like to have a word with you and your distortion of it.

      "My bet is that the execs took Mike's legalistic position of NO responsibility and that enraged reasonable people, when those execs should have said "sorry, horrible oversight, won't happen again"."

      And that legal position is the correct one as far as the law is concerned. Reasonable people would see that Google can't be held responsible for the actions of people who use its services. However, that DID NOT enrage reasonable people. It merely enrages morons (or should I say ankle biters) like you. What DID enrage people, reasonable ones at that, was a video of teens making fun of an autistic person. And what's worse, and which you fail to comment on, is how THOSE teens essentially got a slap on the wrist for something they did. Yet you want Google execs imprisoned for failing to review the comments on the video? Do you not fail to see the hypocrisy there. "Kids who did it, effectively no punishment? That's cool, just being kids and all. Google's involved?! THROW THE BOOK AT THEM!" That's how you sound.

      As for "won't happen again", more stupidity on your part. So what you want is for Google, or better said its execs, to personally review the comments on all videos submitted to Youtube for anything that someone might be offended by and feign mock outrage (like you are doing) over. There are 60 hours of video uploaded to Youtube per minute. The majority of which garner comments from the inane to the outrageous to the inflammatory.

      But hey, let's make sure we put those Google execs to work monitoring all of it. Because heaven forbid we hold the ones doing the uploading and commenting responsible for their actions. /s

      I don't like you blue. Mostly because you're an idiot. But also because you're an idiot.

       

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        dennis deems (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 11:46am

        Re: Re: ALWAYS excusing Google.

        lol the final sentence

         

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        Bergman (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 2:05pm

        Re: Re: ALWAYS excusing Google.

        If Google did employ people to personally review every piece of traffic (video, text, still images, audio) that crossed their system, they would become the largest employer in the world overnight.

        And since Google is a business that must make a profit, they'd pass their costs on the the customers. Are you willing to pay over a thousand dollars per search?

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 8:57am

      Re: ALWAYS excusing Google.

      You forgot to link to the Streisand Effect.

      Isn't that your signature?

       

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      Planespotter (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 8:59am

      Re: ALWAYS excusing Google.

      The execs work for an American company, they just followed the law as it is in America.

      The US Government believes only it's laws apply to the Internet, see Rojadirecta and SurfTheChannel lawsuits. Why would a US company who sees what it's Government does not then assume that as it has no liability in the US it doesn't have liability in another country? There is no such thing as Youtube.IT, only Youtube.COM.

      Italian law doesn't cover .COMs in the eyes of the US Government.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 9:12am

      Re: ALWAYS excusing Google.

      Do you really think google checks all the comments made by every "web user?" How much crack do you smoke?

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 10:02am

        Re: Re: ALWAYS excusing Google.

        All the crack provided to him by his beloved RIAA, billed under "fruit and flowers".

         

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      John Fenderson (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 9:13am

      Re: ALWAYS excusing Google.

      Mike doesn't mention the time frame.


      Perhaps because that time frame is meaningless. It's form when comments were made on the page complaining about the video. Google doesn't read the comments, so how would they know? Now, if it were three months from when an actual complaint was to Google, perhaps there'd be some case for corporate liability -- but I still have a hard time seeing how these executives should be held personally responsible.

       

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      btr1701 (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 8:11pm

      Re: ALWAYS excusing Google.

      > I think this a good case to draw the line for corporations
      > having SOME responsibility to police content.

      You mean just in Italy? Because if you're suggesting that corporations have a general world-wide, legal, government-imposed duty to block what people say and do on YouTube, to basically censor speech that might hurt someone's feelings, then that's gonna run smack up hard against the 1st Amendment in the U.S.

       

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    Fushta (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 7:28am

    Camera Company Execs, too

    If the camera company didn't make the camera, then this film would've never been created, and therefore, Google would not be involved. Put the camera company execs in jail instead. Makes about as much sense.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 7:35am

    Isn't that the same argument that HSBC made over money laundering allegations?

    Why do banks and other entities have an obligation to prevent wrongdoing in the financial ecosystem and everyone in the internet ecosystem claims they have little or no responsibility?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 7:44am

      Re:

      Isn't that the same argument that HSBC made over money laundering allegations?

      No. The context is different.

      Why do some people insist that regulation of commerce is on the same plane as regulation of speech, and writings—and video?

       

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        Alex Macfie (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 8:28am

        Re: Re:

        Indeed. This Italian case is equivalent to holding payment processing companies (VISA, Mastercard) liable if a transaction is unlawful.

         

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      John Fenderson (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 9:17am

      Re:

      everyone in the internet ecosystem claims they have little or no responsibility?


      Odd, that. I don't hear any sizable number of people claiming this. Where are you hearing it?

      What I do hear people claim is that internet companies have a responsibility to to everything they can while balancing their actions with the rights of innocent others, not to mention technical limitations.

      By and large, they do pretty well, in my opinion, and when they err it's almost always on the side of hurting innocent others to placate major corporations and governments.

       

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      btr1701 (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 8:18pm

      Re:

      > Why do banks and other entities have an obligation
      > to prevent wrongdoing in the financial ecosystem
      > and everyone in the internet ecosystem claims they
      > have little or no responsibility?

      Because at least in the U.S., free speech gets the highest level of protection and is considered more important than the patterns by which money flows through the banking system.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 7:37am

    really ... the conversation here is about secondary liability ? So we have all accepted that "being mean on the internet" is a crime ?

     

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      Alex Macfie (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 7:58am

      Re:

      The people who made the video weren't just "being mean", they committed an assault. They committed a crime whether or not they placed a video of it on the Internet. They were punished for it. And that is where the matter should have been left.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 8:06am

      Re:

      So we have all accepted that "being mean on the internet" is a crime ?


      Well, via Popehat (who heard it from SPLC), we learn that Vernon County, Wisconsin has now criminalized “being mean on the internet”
      Whoever sends information to another person by electronic means with the intent to annoy, offend, demean, ridicule, degrade, belittle, disparage, or humiliate any person and which serves no legitimate purpose shall be required to forfeit not less than $50.00 nor more than $500 together with the cost of prosecution and in default of payment shall be sentenced to the County Jail until such forfeiture and costs are paid, not exceeding 30 days.


      So it isn't just Italy, and Italians. The Badgers are up for it too—all out to outlaw badgering.

       

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        Franklin G Ryzzo (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 1:32pm

        Re: Re:

        I would have to think that law could never withstand constitutional challenge on the grounds of a first amendment violation. Laws get passed by ultra conservative or fundamentalist led counties all the time, and then someone reminds them that this is America and your misplaced moral outrage doesn't trump the rest of our rights to free speech.

        This principle doesn't fly in many EU nations due to their insistence on trying to bring morals into legal matters, but I am hopeful that at some point reason will be seen and people will start to understand that laws and ethics do not go hand in hand and that people simply do not have a right to not be offended.

         

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        btr1701 (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 8:22pm

        Re: Re:

        > The Badgers are up for it too—all out to outlaw badgering.

        Thankfully we have 200+ years of 1st Amendment jurisprudence, which ought to put a quick end to nonsense like that Wisconsin statute.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 7:39am

    My friend ate too much and got really fat and died of a heart attack caused by being so overweight. I'd like to see all those farmers and chefs who kept my friend fed thrown into jail for assisting in my friend's murder. Yes it was murder feeding him too much food and letting him buy too much food.

    Hey if Google execs can be held liable for this then my situation should be MUCH more reasonable, since the farmers and chefs KNEW they were getting rich overfeeding my friend.

     

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    richard (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 8:17am

    And this is from the same country that put scientists in jail for incorrectly predicting an earth quake..............

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 8:39am

    there is nothing different here than with copyright cases. the court always makes the crime fit the punishment, not the other way round

     

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    JWW (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 8:39am

    Google comment reader

    There is no amount of money large enough to get me to take the job of Google Comment Reader....

     

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      Chris-Mouse (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 10:19am

      Re: Google comment reader

      You don't have to become a Google Comment Reader, but if someone does happen to slip something past you in a comment, you could go to jail.

       

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    Planespotter (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 8:51am

    I just wish Google pulled their business, whether it's in Italy over Youtube or in Germany and elsewhere where legacy industries want a slice of Googles profits because Google does a great job of pointing people in the right direction.

    I wonder what Italians and Germans would make of a single page that pointed out the stupidity of their nations legal system or industries when they went to any Google page.

     

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    Applegate, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 9:44am

    Simple Answer

    Everyone send the judge an email (in as many different languages as possible). Make some accusations and give him a couple of months to respond and if he doesn't respond directly to your email publish the accusations as fact in the local newspaper.

    When he complains: "Well, we told you we were going to publish and gave you the opportunity to prevent this, so it's your fault."

     

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    Bengie, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 9:47am

    Sure

    Only if the Italian government also gets put in jail for allowed Google to allow some kids to post a video.

     

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    Amber, Dec 13th, 2012 @ 10:55am

    What about all the other criminals that contributed to this awful crime?

    What about the manufacturer of the camera? Why are they not being arrested. They must have known that this would happen, or that it was happening, and they did nothing to stop it. Criminals! They should find the workers who assembled the camera and arrest them. What were they thinking, making a camera that could be used in a crime? What about the location the taunting took place at? Surely those who paved the road or school yard where the crime took place shouldn't be let off the hook. They should have known that criminal actions might take place there, and they should have been watching to make sure this didn't happen, or installed the crime-free pavement. Seriously, why is Google the only one being pursued?

     

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    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Dec 13th, 2012 @ 12:46pm

    As the father of an autistic child, I have to say that this reaction is completely over the top. We've managed to deal with bullying without taking massive legal actions against entire economies with the intended result of toppling empires.

    We took the radical step of HAVING CONFERENCES WITH THE TEACHERS AND PARENTS.

    Excessive, I know. But sometimes you just gotta pull out the big guns.

     

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    snidely (profile), Dec 14th, 2012 @ 5:27am

    Can't stop the music...

    But if I stop doing business in Italy, how will I ever get invited to one of Silvio's bunga bunga parties?

     

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