Italian court postpones trial of four Google execs

Translator no-show delays case that pits internet freedom against online privacy

The criminal trial of four senior Google executives in a court in Milan, Italy, on Tuesday was postponed until Sept. 29 because the translator failed to show up, Google said Tuesday.

The executives are accused of defamation and violating the privacy rights of a boy with Down Syndrome who was filmed being bullied in 2006.

The video was uploaded onto Google Video, a precursor to YouTube, and remained on the website for several months before Google became aware of it and took it down.

The four executives, who all deny wrongdoing, are senior vice president and chief legal officer David Drummond, former chief financial officer George Reyes, senior product marketing manager Arvind Desikan and global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer.

The company said the case flouts an E.U.-wide law governing e-commerce. The directive states that carriers of material uploaded by individuals onto the Internet are not responsible for the content they carry.

The Italian case ignores the directive, according to the company.

"It's like holding the postman responsible for what is written in letters he carries," said Bill Echikson, Google's spokesman in Brussels.

"Seeking to hold neutral platforms liable for content posted on them is a direct attack on a free, open Internet," the company said.

Google removed the offensive video within a day of learning of its existence.

It also cooperated with the police to help arrest the bullies, who were classmates of the disabled boy at a school in Turin.

Last summer, two years after the event, Italian public prosecutors filed two separate criminal charges against the four Google employees: criminal defamation against the boy and the Vivi Down Association, an association that represents individuals with Down Syndrome; and failure to comply with the Italian Privacy Code.

Prosecutors argue that Google didn't have enough automatic filters to screen out the offensive video, and its warnings to users on privacy and copyright laws was insufficient.

They also say Google didn't react fast enough to remove the video because it didn't have enough people employed to intervene manually to remove the video.

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Paul Meller

IDG News Service
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