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An Italian judge has convicted 4 Google employees of criminal defamation over a bullying video that was uploaded to Google Video by a school girl from Turin.

According to Matt Sucherman Google's VP and Deputy General Counsel - Europe, Middle East and Africa, "In late 2006, students at a school in Turin, Italy 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. We also worked with the local police to help identify the person responsible for uploading it and she was subsequently sentenced to 10 months community service by a court in Turin, as were several other classmates who were also involved.

"But in this instance, a public prosecutor in Milan decided to indict four Google employees '”David Drummond, Arvind Desikan, Peter Fleischer and George Reyes (who left the company in 2008). The charges brought against them were criminal defamation and a failure to comply with the Italian privacy code. To be clear, none of the four Googlers charged had anything to do with this video. They did not appear in it, film it, upload it or review it. None of them know the people involved or were even aware of the video's existence until after it was removed.

Two of the convicted Google staffers have responded with personal statements.

Personal statement by David Drummond - SVP, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer, Google

"I am outraged by the decision of the court of Milan today finding that I  am criminally responsible for violating the privacy rights of an autistic school boy who was harassed and bullied by several of his classmates.   I was deeply saddened when I learned that a video of these events was hosted on a Google service.

"This verdict sets a dangerous precedent. If individuals like myself and my Google colleagues who had nothing to do with the harassing incident, its filming or its uploading onto Google Video can be held criminally liable solely by virtue of our positions at Google every employee of any internet hosting service faces similar liability. Clear law in the European Union and in Italy recognizes that internet hosting providers like Google are not required to monitor content that they host. Once Google learned of the offending video it removed it consistent with its responsibilities under these laws. 

"The ruling of the court in Milan poses a grave danger to the continued freedom and operation of the many internet services that users around the world including many Italians have come to rely on in their day to day affairs. It imperils the powerful tool that an open and free Internet has become for social advocacy and change. These values are important to me personally and to Google and we will continue in our efforts to defend them. I am reviewing all available options to challenge this dangerous precedent.'

A personal statement from Peter Fleisher is on the next page.

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David Heath

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David Heath has over 25 years experience in the IT industry, specializing particularly in customer support, security and computer networking. Heath has worked previously as head of IT for The Television Shopping Network, as the network and desktop manager for Armstrong Jones (a major funds management organization) and has consulted into various Australian federal government agencies (including the Department of Immigration and the Australian Bureau of Criminal Intelligence). He has also served on various state, national and international committees for Novell Users International; he was also the organising chairman for the 1994 Novell Users' Conference in Brisbane. Heath is currently employed as an Instructional Designer, building technical training courses for industrial process control systems.

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