Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel, appeared in court today over allegations that the company failed to protect an Italian teenager who was the subject of a bullying video posted online.
The video showed a 17-year-old boy with Down’s syndrome being harassed by others, and was uploaded to Google Video in September 2006. Two months later, following a complaint, Google took the video down. But despite the Google move, it took the video down within 24 hours of receiving the complaint, Italian authorities said the company should have prevented it from ever being posted and that it was an invasion of the boy’s privacy. Prosecutors launched a case, naming four Google employees, including Fleischer and Google chief legal officer, David Drummond.
“As we have repeatedly made clear, our hearts go out to the victim and his family. We are pleased that as a result of our cooperation the bullies in the video have been identified and punished,” Google said in a statement. “We feel that bringing this case to court is totally wrong. It’s akin to prosecuting mail service employees for hate speech letters sent in the post.”
According to the International Association of Privacy Professionals, European laws state that while ISPs are not responsible for third-party content on their sites, they must remove content considered offensive if someone makes a complaint. The case is expected to last several months.
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