Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Today in Milan

Today in Milan, the Milan Public Prosecutors’ Office will make their closing arguments why 4 Google employees including me should be held personally criminally liable for content created by four Italian high school students and uploaded to Google Video. I have no idea what the Prosecutors will say in court today, and my lawyers have told me not to set foot in Italy, so I wanted to provide some factual background on this case.

In terms of timeline, the Prosecutors present their case today, November 25. The Google employees' lawyers will present their defense on December 14 and a verdict should be issued on December 23.

The Judge hearing this case is Judge Magi, who recently convicted 23 Americans, mostly CIA agents, as reported by the New York Times:

In a landmark ruling, an Italian judge on Wednesday convicted a base chief for the Central Intelligence Agency and 22 other Americans, almost all C.I.A. operatives, of kidnapping a Muslim cleric from the streets of Milan in 2003.

Today’s trial stems from an incident in 2006 when teenagers at a school in Turin filmed and then uploaded a video to Google Video that showed them bullying a disabled schoolmate. Google removed the video promptly after being notified. Even so, last summer, the Public Prosecutor brought the following criminal charges against four Google employees, including myself. All of us face one or two charges:

Charge A: Criminal defamation against the Vivi Down Association, an association that represents individuals with down syndrome

Charge B: Failure to comply with the Italian Privacy Code

It should be obvious, but none of us Google employees had any involvement with the uploaded video. None of us produced, uploaded or reviewed it.

The video, shot by a student in a classroom, depicts a boy being harassed by teenagers, including one who makes reference to the Vividown Association. A teacher was allegedly present during part of the filming. Four youths between the ages of 16 and 17 from the Technical Institute in Turin were involved in the creation and uploading of the video. One of these young men actually filmed the video. The teenagers who created the video uploaded it to Google Video, which at the time was Google’s online video-sharing service. Google Video was a host for user-generated content. The Vividown Association and later the family of the boy who was filmed filed a claim against Google in Milan, which is how Google was initially brought into the case. The family of the boy later withdrew from the case. Google complied with law enforcement requests to help identify the bullies, who were subsequently punished.

The Prosecutor then chose to charge individual Google employees. Today he will present his case.


Tien Pol said...

I'd like to express my simpathy.
The same Court (Milan) tried to bring me on trial for the same crime (facing up to 3 years of imprisonment), when my IP address was found in a "police raid" involving ALL the comments on a blog (regardless of what each person wrote).

That's the way Italian Criminal Justice works: you are not innocent until proven guilty, you are guilty unless you have a good lawyer that can prove your innocence.

Anonymous said...

this country sucks!

Unknown said...

Dear Peter,
I enjoy reading your posts. I feel sorry for you that you have to go through prosecution in Italy. It is ridiculous and absolutely pathetic to go after 4 individuals for something that maybe the company is responsible for (personally I agree with you that hosting companies cannot be held responsible for what they host, and that it will kill the Internet).
Knowing justice systems around the world I will not be surprised if you will be convicted. Too often judges prove to be human beings that err.
Reading about IP Geolocation I wonder if there are a lot of people that oppose to having WEB services knowing where they are from. I would think that this can be a future issue for the privacy fighters (I am not amongst them, couldn't care less if Google read all my emails - I don't).