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Lawmaker, Internet freedom advocates warn Italian court set dangerous precedent on Google

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) called an Italian court’s conviction of three Google employees unjust and said the ruling “creates a dangerous precedent that people who work at Internet companies are responsible for the actions of others.”

The Google employees were convicted by an Italian court that found a video of bullies abusing an autistic boy violated privacy rules. The executives didn’t participate in creating or posting the video but were held responsible on behalf of YouTube, which Google owns. The employees include chief legal officer David Drummond; chief privacy counsel Peter Fleischer; and former finance chief George Reyes. The three were given six-month suspended jail sentences by the court.

“The actions were sickening. But justice is not served by criminalizing those who simply work for a company that hosts content on the Internet,” said Kerry, who is chairman of the Senate's subcommitee on telecommunications, technology and the Internet.

Advocates for a free Internet agreed with Kerry. Leslie Harris, president of the Center for Democracy and Technology wrote in a blog entry on Huffington Post that the move threatened free expression and “chills innovation on the global Internet.”

“This is precisely the sort of action by a western democracy that undermines Secretary Clinton's call for global Internet freedom,” she said.

By Cecilia Kang  |  February 25, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Google , International  
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