Google has denounced the conviction of three of its executives by an Italian court, and says it will help the employees appeal against the ruling.
The Google employees were convicted and given suspended six-month sentences for allowing a video of several children bullying a child with Down's syndrome to be posted on the Google Video site.
"The video was totally reprehensible and we took it down within hours of being notified by the Italian police," Matt Sucherman, Google vice-president and deputy general counsel, wrote in the company's official blog. "We also worked with the local police to help identify the person responsible for uploading it and she was subsequently sentenced to 10 months community service by a court in Turin, as were several other classmates who were also involved. In these rare but unpleasant cases, that's where our involvement would normally end."
The incident happened in September 2006, and this week an Italian court convicted Google executives David Drummond, Peter Fleischer and George Reyes of violating Italy's privacy laws.
"In essence this ruling means that employees of hosting platforms like Google Video are criminally responsible for content that users upload," Sucherman wrote. "We will appeal this astonishing decision because the Google employees on trial had nothing to do with the video in question. Throughout this long process, they have displayed admirable grace and fortitude. It is outrageous that they have been subjected to a trial at all."
Principles of freedom
Sucherman said the conviction also "attacks the very principles of freedom on which the internet is built," and could force sites such as YouTube to vet every piece of content uploaded by users. European Union law gives hosting providers freedom from liability as long as they remove illegal content once notified of its existence, he wrote.
"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," Sucherman wrote.
Google did not give a timeline for legal action but said: "We and our employees will vigorously appeal this decision."