First decision in the Italian criminal case against Google executives

By EDRi · February 24, 2010

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Deutsch: [Erstes Urteil im italienischen Strafverfahren gegen Google-Führungskräfte |]

Today, 24 February 2010, the Court of Milan made public the decision in the
criminal trial against four Google executives, charged of defamation and
illegal personal data handling in relationship to the publication on the
video sharing platform of a video containing act of bullyism against a
person affected by the Down Syndrome.

The legal basis for the charges, following the prosecutor’s theory of the
case, was that those executives failed to exercise a pre-emptive control
over the contents published by Google final users’, thus allowing the
infringement of the reputation of the concerned person and of an NGO
representing Down-Syndrome-affected persons.

The Court acquitted all the defendant from the charges of defamation, while
found them liable of the illegal personal data handling charge. The whole
sentence (including the legal technicalities that support the decision) will
be public within the next 30 days.

The legal oddity of the prosecutor strategy is this:
1 – there is a rule of law that says: to not stop a fact means to cause it,
2 – data protection law requires a prior authorization to be obtained before
handling personal data,
3 – a video to be posted online is personal data,
4 – therefore Google executives had to check whether the user who posted the
video got the preemptive authorisation from the people of the video, and
5 – by failing to do so, they infringed the data protection law
6 – furthermore, by not controlling in advance they let the video to libel
the victim of the violence (this charge has been dismissed.)

The consequence is that under this (odd) interpretation of data protection
law, every Internet Service Provider is requested to infringe its user
privacy, to do a prior check on the legitimacy of the action performed by
the users themselves.

A nice Catch 22, and a goodbye to network neutrality and online privacy !

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Case Vividown, the intermediary is responsible (only in Italian, 24.02.2010)

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More detailed analysis of Andrea Monti: Google executives acquitted in Italy from defamation charges (24.02.2010)

Google executives acquitted in Italy from defamation charges

(contribution by Andrea Monti – EDRi-member ALCEI Italy)