Back in 2006, a video was uploaded to YouTube featuring a group of school kids bullying an autistic child. Three Google executives – David Drummond, Peter Fleischer and George Reyes – were convicted in 2010 by a judge in Milan on grounds of “failure to comply with the Italian privacy code,” though Google said it removed the video after being notified, and worked with Italian authorities to help ID he person responsible for uploading it.
“In essence this ruling means that employees of hosting platforms like Google Video are criminally responsible for content that users upload,” wrote Matt Sucherman, Google VP and Deputy General Counsel – Europe, Middle East and Africa at the time. “We will appeal this astonishing decision because the Google employees on trial had nothing to do with the video in question.”
Fast forward to this past December when the decision was overturned, and the execs were acquitted. Details of the ruling have now been made public, as Reuters reports, saying that the court ruled “Internet platforms like Google cannot be forced to filter every video uploaded by users without endangering freedom of thought and their own functionality.”
Had the decision gone the other way, it could have had huge ramifications for the web, social media and user-generated sites. How many executives want to risk going to prison because of something a total stranger uploaded to their site? How many executives of such services would already be in danger of facing such action?
So, yeah, we’ll chalk this one up as a win for the Internet.