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back to article Google set to begin appeal against Italian guilty verdicts

Google is shortly expected to appeal against suspended sentences handed out to three of its executives accused of breaching Italian privacy laws. Mountain View global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer, who is one of the men convicted by a Milan court in February 2010, told the San Francisco Chronicle that appeal proceedings could …

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@ It was impossible to pre-screen all YouTube content, Google unsuccessfully argued

Well Google, if you have to prescreen to meet Italian law then perhaps you'd better find a way of doing it... It might come a bit expensive to moderate every bit of content and it might stuff your business model, but that's not the Law's problem.

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Anonymous Coward

Also...

I note that they don't seem to have a problem keeping nudity off their servers, to which they have "a zero tolerance approach", it's just violence, gangs dissing each other, happy slapping and copyright material etc. etc.

Do they still host the video of Saddam Hussein being executed? What's worse that or some T&A?

Don't be evil, indeed.

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Simpler solution. Google can close all Italian offices and tell the employees to move to another country or lose their jobs.

Cruel? Heartless? Perhaps, but all countries need to learn that their laws end at their borders.

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Stop

@JimC - The law is an ass!

If you follow the logic of your argument through, then Google will have to pre-screen every bit of content according to the laws of *EVERY* country in the world!

What if you choose to post a clip making fun of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of Modern Turkey? That's illegal in that country, so should Google have to pre-screen and refuse to distribute it because the Turks don't like it?

And what about all those naughty clips which are illegal in many other countries? How can google pre-screen everything unless they employ specialist staff from every country in the world to check that they're not breaching each country's law?

I have no love for Google, but if they don't fight this one and win it will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression across the world.

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If it comes to that...

It will be far easier for the company to leave the country altogether. After leaving China, I doubt that they would hesitate for Italy.

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@Graham

Oh poor Google having to take on board the laws of the world instead of just the USA and its religious nuts.

Well that's the thing with operating a multinational isn't it? They seem to have no legal issues with taking money from Italian companies for Adwords and having offices there, so why not operate within the law?

If they don't like they can leave Italy whenever they want. I'm sure Microsoft/Bing/etc would be happy to take over.

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Boffin

@AC

I think you've just manged to completely miss the point.

Google took the clip down when they were made aware of it, but the prosecutors in this case are saying that the defendants in this case were found guilty because "Google should have sought permission from those involved before putting the video online".

To say that Google should pre-screen *everything* that someone puts on GoogleVid is like saying that the Post Office should pre-screen every letter sent via their service, it is completely unfeasible and a ridiculous law.

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> they can leave Italy...

'xactly so.

And I bet right now the Italians and especially the Italian government have very little sympathy for multinationals who take their earnings out of the country and pay what little tax they do pay in whatever tax haven is currently convenient.

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@completely unfeasible and a ridiculous law

Au contraire. Pre screening everything is perfectly easy to do, and perfectly feasible. There are any number of moderated forums and so on out there that do exactly that. There is no technical challenge at all.

The problem for Google is that they can't employ people to do the pre screening and make a profit. Well tough. There are any number of dodgy business propositions that would be very profitable if the pesky law didn't get in the way.

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No its not

What an absurd comparison. Posted letters aren't put up on display to the whole public.

Of course it's feasible to pre-screen videos posted on Youtube, doesn't this very site pre-screen all it's comments? I bet they would love not to have to do that, but they're responsible for what gets posted - so they do.

Not sure what gives Google the right to be irresponsible.

Plus as someone else said they have no problem with pre-screening for nudity. Maybe because if they had nudity the religious nuts would be up in arms in the good old US of A and Youtube would be having a word with some senators now. But Italian children getting beaten up, well that's all right.

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Umm If you login in you find lots of porn on you tube. It's just rate 18 and you need to have google account to see it .

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Headmaster

@JimC

I don't think The Law would have a big objection to starting at the top of the "most viewed" list either. As a great man once said ... Doh?

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@Graham

No, I've not missed the point, I don't think that Google should be publishing everything and then responding if someone objects. How would someone know if there is a video of them being assaulted on you tube, if they don't know to look for it, likewise how would someone know that their copyright material is up on you tube without having to look for it? It's nothing like the post office checking each piece of mail, because each piece of mail is private and sealed, whereas each post on you tube is public and open to everyone.

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Anonymous Coward

If a country decides YouTube is essentially illegal, all they need to do is close it in that country (with a suitable notice explaining why) and wait for the backlash to fix the problem.

I know they'd consider that a last resort (lost revenue from ads would be huge) but it's the sort of thing I could see them realistically doing once they'd explored all the sane routes.

Italy is fast becoming one of the worst countries for privacy litigation. I wonder why.

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@kain

Erm, no. You may be confusing it with Redtube or maybe you don't know what porn is?

YouTube has a very strong policy against any sexual nudity.

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Ah, but that's not how Google (or Apple or Microsoft) work. They expect national laws to come into line with their method of operation, not the other way round.

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Then they are doing a poor job of enforcing it . Because I can find it there .

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Boffin

@JimC and AC

According to Youtube (also owned by Google) somewhere between 24 and 48 hours of video are uploaded *EVERY MINUTE*!

How on earth do you expect them to pre-screen that much content and make sure that everything they see is acceptable in *every* country in the world???

(Oh, and as regards the the Post Office too. I *know* that letters are private, I simply chose that as an easy to understand example to point was that it is the sheer unfeasibility of checking that much content)

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@kain not only is there very little porn on youtube, but any that does make it on there gets taken down pretty damned quickly and users who upload it tend to lose their accounts. The fact that they manage to deal with porn pretty effectively argues against their own defence. If they can deal with porn why can't they deal with other content.

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@Grease Monkey

Is the fact that the porn on YouTube gets taken down quickly because a) google spot it or b) other people spot it and complain?

In any case, the issue is not "is this porn or not" (which is reasonably easy to determine) but "is this illegal in some country somewhere in the world", which is not because that requires a much more subjective value judgement.

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@How on earth do I expevct them to pre screen that much content

Employ a lot of people? They could solve all Italy's economic problems by employing thousands of people to do it. Its not hard, its just expensive.

To repeat: if their business model is predicated on ignoring the law and hoping it will go away, how is that the law's problem? All sorts of manufacturing businesses would be much more profitable if they were allowed to ignore health and safety and pollution laws for instance, but its not considered acceptable to do so (unless its out of sight and out of mind in China or Thailand perhaps).

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@JimC

"Employ a lot of people", I would laugh at this ironic joke, except it seems you appear to think that you're making a sensible and reasonable suggestion.

There again you also appear to think that "if their business model is predicated on ignoring the law and hoping it will go away, how is that the law's problem?" is a reasonable (and accurate) argument too.

Unfortunately both of these are fundamentally flawed in ways that are so obvious I can't even be bothered to point out the fallacies.

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Always interesting looking at a selection of people's other posts...

Obviously I have better things to do than browse through all Mr Marsden's back posts, but I spotted that he has used this rhetorical trick of "I can't be bothered to point out fallacies" before.

It is, of course, much easier than actually making a case and has the advantage that its not possible to demonstrate flaws in a non existent argument.

I could of course be very dumb and failing to spot obvious flaws in the principle that its up to business to comply with the law rather than up to the law to comply with business, and it appears that I will continue to be ignorant in that respect.

I will freely admit that there are all too many cases of large companies ignoring the law or even, in some jurisdictions, actually having the law corruptly changed to suit them, but I'm less convinced that this is a good thing.

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Boffin

@JimC

Since you apparently need me to spell it out for you, please allow me to explain:

Firstly, it's clear that you don't run a business since, if you did, it would rapidly become bankrupt because trying to solve a problem like this by simply "employing a lot of people" would just be throwing money down the drain.

Secondly, you miss the fact, whilst it is, indeed, up to business to comply with the law, to try to make a global business compliant with *every* law, *everywhere* would be an even bigger waste of money and utterly futile.

I do run a business and supply products worldwide, but due to the adult nature of those products, they are not legal in certain countries. Now if someone from one of those countries chooses to order a product from me, should I be required to ascertain whether my product is legal under that country's laws or is the onus on the customer to ensure that they are not breaking that country's laws buy ordering it. You seem to think that the former is the case, even though I am breaking no laws in my country by selling the item. If I supply that person, should I be liable for arrest in their country?!

If Google were to accept the Italian ruling, then they would have to start censoring *everything* on Youtube and every search result and every g-mail to ensure that it didn't breach some country's laws which would be so monumentally expensive and so monumentally ridiculous that these flaws should be obvious.

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I agree. If google can't do it then they should pull out of Italy. In fact if I was in charge I would pull out right now .

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Indeed that's all you can do in Italy. Or it would be if the Pope had his way.

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Anonymous Coward

Accused vs Convicted

This is nitpicking, but it's odd how some wording subtly alters the perception of a story.

If you say "suspended sentences handed out to three of its executives accused of breaching Italian privacy laws" and use the word "accused" people are trained to think "not convicted" - it's just the way news media words things.

These people have (obviously most would agree wrongly) actually been convicted. They're appealing of course, but it implies a certain bias to still use the term "accused".

Like I said, nitpicking, but in this sort of article there's no reason to be anything more than completely neutral in your reporting - the insanity of the case speaks for itself loudly enough.

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Just lock em up ...

... until the final decision is made.

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Simple solution

There is a very simple solution here: Google should block Italy from it's video services.

Then the country can decide whether they like this or if they should change their laws.

Now, where's that Easy button...

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Anonymous Coward

Really?

You think that Google should force a change in the law of a sovereign state because they want to keep a monopoly (almost) service for hosting video.

Now replace Google with Microsoft or Monsanto, or whoever the bogeyman de jour is and see if you think it's a good idea.

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So Chris, basically you are a Google fanboi. Great. At least we know where we stand.

However it is unlikely that your proposed solution would work for Google.

1. Video hosting is a very minor issue, especially on the political agenda of a country with such serious problems elsewhere. As such no major party would make it an electoral issue. And unless they did nothing would change.

2. There are other video hosts and search engines. People would just use them and find they are just as good, and indeed often better.

3. If people wanted to use Google services they would use proxies. However the inconvenience would probably prove too much and they would revert to #2.

4. Google lives and dies on advertising revenue, they would not want to lose the revenue from even one country if they could afford it.

5. Blocking Italian users would probably be a breach of contract with their paying customers (ie advertisers) in Italy. Lawsuits would follow and Google would undoubtably lose them.

6. Google would not want to risk setting a dangerous (for Google) precedent. What if the Italians found they could cope just fine without Google (I do). When Google were prosecuted in other territories (and they already are) they would almost have to take the same action as they did in Italy. If they did those countries would not bat an eyelid having already seen what happened with Italy.

7. Do you really think that trying to force a change in a wide ranging law to suit the business needs of a single company is reasonable? Do you think even Google would think that?

8. Attempting to blackmail a national government is not disimilar to an act of terrorism. How well would that fit in with Google's "do no evil" creed.

9. Acting like that would almost certainly land them in a lot of trouble in the European courts. What then block the whole of Europe?

If you do business in a country you do so by the laws of that country. I'm trying to avoid saying "when in Rome". You should check the law before you start to operate, not later. Assuming the same laws apply worldwide as in your home country is a very stupid thing to do, but it's a mistake made by many American businesses.

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@JimC

Cheaper to not host any content from Italy. That would no doubt hurt Italian businesses, but I doubt that the rest of the world would care.

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Anonymous Coward

In my honest and humble and common sense opinion I do not see any implications about either party's privacy in the video that was hosted on google. The bullies broke the law and assaulted a person with medical condition. Where is the privacy breach here?

If someone see it otherwise please by all means enlighten me.

I'm the last person who should defend google and their evil means to monopolize basically everything but in this scenario I believe the Italians are just trying to get some money as their economic state is very very poor.

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"It was impossible to pre-screen all Google Video content, Google unsuccessfully argued."

It isn't impossible, but it's probably financial impractical. Not the same thing at all. If that's what Italian law requires them to do then they need to take a business decision; either they do it or they stop allowing end user uploaded content on Youtube in Italy - and other countries with similar laws.

Google seem to want Youtube to be treated as some sort of alternative to TV, but for some reason don't think they should have to comply with the same laws as TV does.

I think Google's real beef with this is not the suspended sentences per se, it's not about the implications for their operations in Italy. It is more, I suspect, that Google realise that this threatens the entire business model of Youtube. If Google lose this one then it's likely other, similar actions will be brought in other countries. And if that happens their business will be seriously impacted across huge chunks of the globe.

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