When a video of an autistic Italian teen being beaten turned up on a Google-owned video site, Italian authorities stepped in to prosecute and convict the bullies—and Google. In a verdict with far-ranging implications for Internet freedom, an Italian judge today found three Google executives guilty of privacy violations for allowing the bullies to upload the video. The judge slapped the three with six-month suspended sentences and absolved them of defamation charges.
The case could set a precedent about whether Internet providers in Italy must monitor content for abusive material. Google, calling the decision "astonishing," says it could be forced to attempt the impossible: prescreening the thousands of hours of videos uploaded daily to Google-owned YouTube. "We are deeply troubled by this decision," a Google spokesman said. "It attacks the principles of freedom on which the Internet was built." Prosecutors said the case wasn't about censorship but about protecting individual privacy.