On Friday, an Italian appeals court in Milan overturned the 2010 criminal conviction of three Google Inc. executives for violating the privacy of a disabled boy by allowing a video of students bullying him to appear on Google Video. In February 2010, a court handed down six-month prison sentences to three senior Google executives—Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer David Drummond, Global Privacy Counsel Peter Fleischer and former Google Italy board member George De Los Reyes. None of the executives were based in Italy, and Google has said the executives had nothing to do with the upload.
The convictions stemmed from a video that four students at a Turin school uploaded to Google Video in 2006 showing them bullying the disabled boy. The prosecutors accused Google of negligence, saying the video remained online for two months even though some Web users had already posted comments asking for it to be taken down. The 2010 ruling set a precedent in Europe for one of the most sensitive issues facing video sites such as Google’s YouTube: whether Internet operators can be held liable for content that is posted on video sites by third parties.
The executives did not attend Friday’s hearing. Their original sentences had been suspended pending the outcome of the appeal, so none of them were imprisoned. Reasons for Friday’s decision will be made public in 60 days.