Home Italian Judge Says “Profit” Behind Google Convictions

Italian Judge Says “Profit” Behind Google Convictions

When we first looked at the conviction of three Google employees by an Italian judge in late February, we agreed with Google’s stance that the conviction attacked the very ideals of the Internet as we know it.

The comments in reaction to this article were many and varied, often speculating on the reasoning behind the conviction. Today, a CNet article identifies profit as the judge’s reasoning behind the decision.

As Google stated when the convictions were first handed down, the case was concerned with a video of “students at a school in Turin, Italy [who] filmed and then uploaded a video to Google Video that showed them bullying an autistic schoolmate. The video was totally reprehensible and we took it down within hours of being notified by the Italian police.”

According to the Associated Press translation of the court document (PDF), the judge said Google’s profiting off of the video was the reason behind the conviction.

“In simple words, it is not the writing on the wall that constitutes a crime for the owner of the wall, but its commercial exploitation can,” wrote Judge Oscar Magi, continuing to say that the Internet was no longer an “unlimited prairie where everything is permitted and nothing can be prohibited”.

Profit, especially that profit which is made from completely automated advertising systems, seems like an odd reasoning to hold a content provider responsible for the content uploaded by its users. The oft-quoted statistic to keep in mind here is that YouTube has more than 20 hours of video uploaded every minute to the service. Judge Magi, however, argues that “the overwhelming speed of technical progress will allow, sooner or later, ever more stringent controls on uploaded data on the part of Web site managers”.

Google gave CNET the following statement in response to the news:

“We are reading the full 111-page document from the judge. But as we said when the verdict was announced, this conviction attacks the very principles of freedom on which the Internet is built. If these principles are swept aside, 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. These are important points of principle, which is why we and our employees will vigorously appeal this decision.”

We have to say, we still agree with Google on this one, as far as the spirit of the conviction goes. Holding the content host, YouTube in this case, liable for the content of its users attacks the very foundation of the Web. If, as some claim, Google knowingly allowed the content to stay on the site, then its a different story. But if the company immediately responded to official requests to remove the video, it should not be held responsible for its users’ content.

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