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The conviction of three Google executives by an Italian judge over a video that was uploaded to their video platform raises serious questions about Internet freedom.
The video, which showed students bullying an autistic classmate, was removed by Google hours after Italian police notified them in 2006.
But the judge found the three guilty of breaking the country’s privacy laws because the company had not sought the consent of all the parties involved before the video was posted. Prosecutors argued that the protection of human beings must prevail over business logic.
The students in the video were reportedly expelled from their school in Turin, northern Italy.
The Web giant said it would appeal the Milan court's decision because the three men "had nothing to do with the video in question" and for its implications on Internet freedom and censorship.
It argued that the company had not breached European law which protects Internet service providers (ISPs) as long as they remove illegal content once notified of its existence.
During the trial it said pre-moderating all user-generated video on its YouTube video-sharing service was impossible.
In a blog post, Google’s vice president Matt Sucherman said if YouTube and other social networks are held responsible for the text, photos, and videos uploaded to them, "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."
Is it a step too far to expect firms to be liable for all content on their site? Or is a bold attempt to “police” the Internet?