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Google fears for Internet freedom

An Italian judge has found three Google executives guilty of violating the privacy of an autistic student from Turin, who was bullied in a clip posted up on Google Video back in 2006 which stayed on the site for two months until it was flagged up and pulled from the site. David Drummond, Peter Fleischer and George Reyes were not involved in the making or the posting of the video, but judge Oscar Magi sentenced them to six months in prison. Google will appeal, despite the fact that jail sentences of less than three years are commuted if you don’t already have a criminal record.

Google have understandably reacted indignantly to the decision, which they feel is ‘astonishing’ and ‘attacks the very principles of freedom on which the Internet was built’. They also are angry that these sentences have been passed down despite the fact they assisted the police in bringing those who made the film to justice.

‘European Union law was drafted specifically to give hosting providers a safe harbour from liability so long as they remove illegal content once they are notified of its existence,’ they said on their official blog. ‘The belief, rightly in our opinion, was that a notice and take down regime of this kind would help creativity flourish and support free speech while protecting personal privacy. If that principle is swept aside and sites like Blogger, YouTube and indeed every social network and any community bulletin board, are held responsible for vetting every single piece of content that is uploaded to them - every piece of text, every photo, every file, every video - then the Web as we know it will cease to exist, and many of the economic, social, political and technological benefits it brings could disappear.’

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