back to article Google on trial over Italian 'defamation' vid

The Privacy Trial of the Century is already waving jail time at three current Google execs and its former chief financial officer. And now there's an added complaint against the company itself. In September 2006, someone posted a three-minute cell-phone video to Google's Italian website in which four Turin teenagers make fun …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Italy better be careful

    As I understand, italy is a big source of pirated music and films on the torrent sites. Maybe the US will just disconnect them from the internet!!!

  2. Gary

    Practice makes perfect

    If Italy cannot play nice with common carriers, perhaps it google should remove the conflict of interest by offering service to that country.

    Lets see how they like having every site registered with a .it domain de-listed. Be all accounts last Saturday's practice with blanket malware listing means they are ready to go.

    OK .it are you feeling lucky... Well are you..

  3. Neoc

    Big sigh

    Let me guess... the four Teenagers in question have high-position relatives and can't be sued. But the government must be seen to do something, so let's sue the people who had nothing to do with it in the first place.

    Explain to me how these executives are responsible? The mechanism for posting has been well known for some time and (here's the kicker) does not require approval by anyone. So how are these 4 suddenly responsible for that one video?

    Sounds to me like GOV.IT is trying to flex its muscles again.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    This is Italy.

    Wait 3 weeks and the Government is likely to be changed, again

    If you you don't like the new Govt, wait another few weeks for the next one...

  5. P. Lee

    Nah nah na-nah nah!

    Ok, its a really mean thing to do, but some kids making fun of another and some kid hitting another with a box of tissues? This is the subject of multiple governmental legal actions?

    This is a country which joined in an aggressive war on Iraq, right?

    Perspective please!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    Any provider that publishes uploaded video content should vet the content before it's put online. If they can't meet that responsibility then they should be prosecuted, as per this case. Google need to employ people to vet uploaded content, and if they can't afford to do this then their service should be dropped.

    I'm disappointed by the anti-Italian sentiment of the above posters. I'm glad that the Italian government is willing to take on a big corporation on behalf of its citizens - especially those that don't have the ability to defend themselves. Pity the UK government is too busy kissing big corporate arses to do the same.

    El reg doesn't publish these comments without vettting them, so why do the Google execs think they can publish videos unchecked and not then take responsibility for its published content? It's about time they were forced to remove their teflon coat.

  7. Ash

    I wonder...

    ... Who retains the most lawyers?

    Italy or Google?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    No google-bashing today??

    Thats a change from the usual! hooray!

  9. Robin

    This is serious guys

    I think a little more respect is needed from the previous posters as to what actually happened and to simply say Google is 100% not responsible is simply sticking your head in the sand. I've never used YouTube. I just created an account, logged in and uploaded a video. The only warning re laws was a box to the left which explicitly mentions copyright laws but makes no mention of privacy laws. You will find these in the community guidelines if you look hard enough. And even then it is not explicit that you are not allowed to upload defamous material - it simply waffles on about respect. I think Google needs to ask users to click a checkbox on each upload to acknowledge that they know they are not allowed to publish defamous material. This sounds like overkill and it probably is, but Google can't just wash it's hands of this and say we took it down a month later. With YouTube Google is a publisher and therefore needs to abide by them same publishing laws as others. Whilst it is obviously not possible to moderate every single uploaded video, maybe they should take a leaf out of the BBC's book. Your first few uploads are moderated until Google are certain you're a not a juvenile 15 year old uploading harmful material. This is not rocket science. It is good for the community and respectful.

  10. Adrian

    Wrong wrong wrong

    "It's akin to prosecuting mail service employees for hate speech letters sent in the post."

    Except that the postie doesn't tell the entire world the contents of the letter. Website owners should be personally held responsible for content on *their* site. Just as newspaper editors are for newspaper content and producers are for video/TV etc. Siting free speech etc is absolute cr@p. If they want people to post unsolicited material on their site then it should be vetted before being published.

    Does this mean that a gazzilion dollar internet business has to actually employ people to check the content before it is made public? Well yes, they should. Why should they be allowed to post offensive material for all to see until someone complains ? They should not have broadcast it at all.


  11. Stef
    Thumb Down

    Yeah Right

    Great, let's moderate every single piece of information that ever goes onto the internet. That shouldn't take long. Anything that the Net Tzars don't agree with gets burned. Didn't Hitler do that with books?

    Don't get me wrong, this video should have been removed, but I think the blame is in the wrong place. What about the evil company that made the recording equipment, shouldn't they be sued? And why not sue the Pope as God gave this kid Down's Syndrome and made these children evil? What about the ISP of the person that uploaded the video?

  12. Anonymous Coward

    google sooooo deserve to be jailed

    i mean, they are so damn rich and we are so damn poor.

    off with their heads!

  13. Zap
    Thumb Up

    I hope they win

    I think Italy is right to pursue this, Google which owns Youtube MUST take responsibility for the content it allows to be published on the internet.

    It operates a community policing policy and as Panorama reported some videos of kids being beaten and kicked while on the ground had been reported 17 times and not remoed. There were also racist comments on similar videos, again they did not remove them.

    Even when Panorama reported a video of kids vandalising a police car they decided it was not bad enough to remove.

    The gang that shot that poor boy Rhys in Liverpool had "violent bragging" videos on YouTube.

    Allowing a video of a disabled child being taunted is obscene, it turns my stomach.

    I hope Google is made to pay a lot, then maybe it will employ people to police its site.

  14. Paul


    Google should be up in court for alowing this, and then in the US for removing the video as a breach of free speach. Then in China for couropting public morals.

    Or perhaps countrys could come up with clear laws on what is and is not alowable on the net in there country then people know what is going on.

  15. Anonymous Coward


    For all we know, it was maybe not at all obvious that the kid had downs.

    Obviously the uploaders knew and it was their intention to humilate the kid through their actions.

    Google did no necessarily know. We know Google were informed a month later and took the video down immediately.

    Who is worse? Google, for not being aware of the content that they were hosting - or the kids that put it there, fully aware of what they were doing?

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Serious lack of perspective here today

    Pre (and retroactive) vetting of the amounts of content that gets posted on YouTube would mean only one thing - no YouTube. Same would go for many other sites out there that rely on public content/feedback to be of interest.

    It's the creators/posters of the silly video that are to blame here, and I see so few mentions of that here that's it's obvious a lot of folks just want to probe around Google's rectum, and truth be damned.

  17. Tom
    Thumb Down


    Yes, Panorama these days is an incredibily reliable source for information. Well, it is... if you don't mind the information being greatly exaggerated and often untrue!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Serious lack of perspective here today

    "Pre (and retroactive) vetting of the amounts of content that gets posted on YouTube would mean only one thing - no YouTube."

    So no YouTube then.

    Wait until it's a video of your mother/father/son/daughter being humiliated or on the receiving end of a crime filmed and uploaded for the world to see then you might feel differently.

    If vetting's too expensive for their business model then they should be shut down.

    IMO ignorance is not an excuse. I expect the Italian authorities see it this way too.

  19. TeeCee Gold badge


    You mentioned Hitler.

    I don't think that the reference would have had any meaning were it not for the fact that people like you are prepared to find "yeah, but it's too difficult to stop it and it's not really *our* problem" a valid excuse.

  20. DavCrav

    I don't get this

    If the Italian courts say you're guilty, aren't Google simply going to shut down its Italian offices? Because a ruling against Google would mean that every website is responsible for the content it posts. That would include, for example, search engines, Wikipedia, and any website whose content is against whichever random Italian law they think applies.

    Also, a quick check on Youtube's website confirms their address:

    YouTube, LLC

    901 Cherry Ave.

    San Bruno, CA 94066


    NOT IN ITALY! Do you people who think that Youtube can be sued by people from a different country need to be hit with a clue-by-four, or something? It's bad enough the US thinking that all of their laws apply globally, without the bloody Italians getting in on the game. Remember, if all countries' laws apply globally, then for example we need some mesh of Chinese, (stupid) British, and Saudi laws on what can go on. You'll love that...

  21. James Hughes


    Lot of people posting in support of, effectively, closing down YouTube. Which is the end result of having to vet every video being posted according to the laws of EVERY SINGLE COUNTRY IN THE WORLD (and by implication, that would mean the most constricting -e.g. China? Iran?N. Korea?). That would mean thousand upon thousands of people worldwide needing to be employed just to vet content.

    And that just for YouTube. What about Blogs? Those would also need to be vetted. And all bulletin boards. All forums. Photo sites (Photobucket has 6 billion images on it all needing vetting) Basically almost everything that gets posted by a third party would have to be vetted.

    Which is impossible to fund. So I suppose we will just have to shut the internet down....

    It seems to me that the only way to police the internet is retroactively, as is done at the moment. The ToC's need to ensure that specifically ban according to local laws, and the companies need to ensure they pull down stuff as soon as it is shown they contravene local laws/TOC's.

    Ok, so as software becomes more sophisticated, it might become possible to auto-vet some kinds of content, but auto-vetting video is way beyond what is currently possible, and even text content recognition isn't good enough for general vetting.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC, Adrian, and Zap


  23. Anonymous Coward

    A Letter to the Editor

    I am incredibly disheartened with the comments I have read.

    Firstly, racial stereotyping is not useful to this discussion and no-one even made enough effort to justify their slurs as comedy.

    Secondly, any vetting process must surely require the third party host, whom we seem to be elevating to the role of publisher, to apply their personal judgment. If we allow, or indeed force, that change then we will lose the great liberating and democratizing benefits the internet has enabled. No article found online or off can ever be considered as entirely acceptable or entirely abhorrent: these distinctions are always created by the viewer of the article.

    I vote against any suggestion of an internet Editorial committee.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Just another political stunt

    The key quote in the whole story is this: "We are raising the issue to show that there are holes in Italian legislation."

    The prosecutor is basically acknowledging that Google has no legal responsibility under current laws but is using this case to gather public support for introducing a law that would change that. The Italian legal system is one of the worst and most corrupt in the western world. There's open warfare between politicians changing laws to defend themselves from magistrates (Berlusconi), magistrates turning criminal cases into circuses to build a platform for their own political career (Di Pietro), magistrates gunning for politicians just because they're of a different political persuasion (pretty much all of them)...

    Google, like so many Italian citizens and companies before them are just caught in the crossfire. Knowing how the system works I can confidently predict the result:

    - The trial will last 2 - 3 years

    - It will end up with acquittal on the main charges and conviction on some minor ones

    - The conviction will be overturned on appeal

    - It will ultimately end up in some higher court who will rule that either the case be dropped because of the statute of limitations, or that the case is beyond their jurisdiction.

    Most of these 'political' cases follow this pattern since it allows both sides to claim victory while keeping the status quo unchanged.

    Most definitely anonymous, we're talking about a place where the most important / famous people in the country were illegally wiretapped / blackmailed for years by phone company employees.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Special Net

    We should start a new net. Let's see, so far China, France and Italy can sign up for their own Special Net. Anybody else want on board? Everything on the Special Net can be vetted by the governments that are members.

    Let's leave the Internet alone. Like all tools it can be abused. When it is go after the truly guilty (the parties that posted the offensive material). As of today, there is no greater tool for free expression.

  26. steward
    Black Helicopters

    Remember too that Germany didn't invent fascism

    Stef writes:

    "Great, let's moderate every single piece of information that ever goes onto the internet. That shouldn't take long. Anything that the Net Tzars don't agree with gets burned. Didn't Hitler do that with books?"

    Well, Italy was the first fascist nation - even before Germany. It appears the Allies didn't take the fascist elements out as completely as needed. Time to retake possession.

  27. Hombre sin nombre

    @AC vetting fan

    I cannot describe my hatred for you in mere words, so you'll have to bear with me here. What you are describing is a Fahrenheit 451/Nineteen-Eighty-Four/Fascist style control over a public medium defined by free expression. You propose shutting down all websites that can't vet all user-posted content before it becomes publicly available. Not only is what you propose a violation of the rights set forth in the governing documents of most developed countries, but it would be completely impossible to implement and enforce. My point here is, you should be worried about people hitting you over the head with a tissue box and laughing about it online next.

  28. Graham Marsden

    "allowing the posting in the first place"

    Ok, hands up who wants a job which will simply involve sitting there, all day, every day, watching inane, stupid, boring, trivial video clips for hour after hour (with only the possible occasional bit of porn to lighten your day) as they are uploaded to YouTube or any other such site?

    And then think how much of this you've *missed* because it's being uploaded to blogs or web pages or other such media...

    Sure, take the stuff down if someone complains about it, but as for the rest, well the name Canute springs to mind.

  29. Orclev


    The rest of the world is not going to filter the internet for you, and most certainly are not going to do so with your local laws used as the criteria for filtering. To do so would not only be incredibly expensive, but would in all likelihood violate laws elsewhere in the world. If Italy continues pushing this asinine point the proper response is for all companies to block access from Italy which handles the problem in a simple and effective manner.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    Italian job vacancies

    Good to see that in these difficult days, at least the lawyers will continue to be able to earn an honest living.

    /sarcasm off

    Maybe the UK could provide some suitably qualified individuals to work in Italy...

  31. Dave
    Thumb Down

    This is already covered under an EU directive

    This is already covered under an EU directive

    The E-Commerce Regulations

    So, what legal protections are there for ISPs? The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002 (or the E-Commerce Regulations as they are commonly known), introduced a number of provisions setting out the circumstances where Internet intermediaries should not be held accountable for material which is hosted, cached or carried by them.

    For instance, Regulation 17 provides that a service provider shall not be liable for unlawful or illegal content, sent or posted by any of its users, so long as the service provider does not initiate the transmission, does not select the receiver of the transmission and does not select or modify the information contained in the transmission.

  32. Dave
    Thumb Up

    It is safer NOT to vet (moderate) posts

    "El reg doesn't publish these comments without vettting them, so why do the Google execs think they can publish videos unchecked and not then take responsibility for its published content? It's about time they were forced to remove their teflon coat."

    It is safer NOT to vet (moderate) posts, El reg is making itself responsible for all comments posted on its sites by doing so

  33. Maty
    Thumb Down

    rather than the mail ...

    ...let's imagine a noticeboard, say in a college. If I put up a notice containing illegal/defamatory material, and the college authorities remove it as soon as this is brought to their attention, can the college be sued for the time that the notice was up?

    I trust this is a bit of grandstanding by the Italian prosecutors. Otherwise every forum and user-generated content site in the world is about to potentially fall foul of Italian law.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    @Hombre sin nombre

    "I cannot describe my hatred for you in mere words"

    Well thank you for trying anyway :-)

    Video content is different to a blog or a posting on a discussion board. This case isn't about freedom of speech it's about the responsibility of a revenue generating site to vet content that may invade the privacy or cause distress to unwilling parties (and, in some cases, victims).

    One of the main fears (if not THE main fear) that Orwell describes in 1984 is being watched by big brother and having every shred of privacy taken away by a multitude of cameras. And here you are suggesting that invasive videos should be published to the world. Hmmm.....

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The real question

    is who's behind the flagrant astroturfing here. Microsoft have certainly been implicated in such actions before, I can't really think of anyone else with such a grudge against Google. Other than Cade Metz and Andrew Orlowski that is.

  36. Tharrick

    Wasn't Italy..

    ...the country where most of the internet is illegal by dint of the content authors not having a license to publish newspapers anyway?

  37. Robin

    It's not black or white

    There's no need to moderate 100% of all videos. Once you trust a user to post sensible stuff, there's no need moderate them further. What is not acceptable is that ANYONE can sign-up to YouTube and post ANYTHING without some kind check. The BBC fully understands this. Why is it so difficult for Google to understand this? Hiding behind freedom of speech simply not acceptable.

    With freedom also comes responsibility. Otherwise it's anarchy.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The people who made and...

    uploaded the video are at fault here. They should be held responsible and if they are not old enough to be held responsible, then their parents should be held responsible. Many of you will say that the parents shouldn't as access to the internet is so easy to get.

    Maybe these parents, all parents, need to learn a little about the Internet, operating systems, security, and their childrens' usage of the Internet. Wouldn't it be a shame if we had to take some personal responsibility for ourselves and our children?

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