Italian Privacy Violation Case Wednesday Could Set Dangerous Precedent

February 17, 2009

The Computer & Communications Industry Association will be among those monitoring the outcome of a privacy violation case Wednesday (February 18) in Italy. Several Google executives face up to 3 years in prison over a YouTube video. The video, which showed a disabled student being harassed, was identified and taken down within 24 hours by Google employees, whose actions helped lead to the prosecution of those responsible for the video. But the executives are still facing criminal penalties.

The following comments on this case can be attributed to Ed Black, CCIA President and CEO:

“This case could set a terrible precedent. Criminally prosecuting companies, whose main purpose is legitimately facilitating the open flow of information, resembles criminal law on steroids.

“This case is bad law and worse policy. To hold Google employees liable in this context is no more sensible than holding postal service snail mail routemen or email service employees liable for what is written in the messages they carry. Hate speech letters or video sent by any means is despicable, but criminal sanctions are unfair when applied widely against peripheral “non” actors. Seeking to hold neutral Internet platforms liable for content posted by others, is a dangerous threat to a free, open Internet. It would directly and unjustifiably threaten thousands of legitimate companies. The U.S. government and all multinational firms should express their concern and outrage over such unjustified expansionist use of criminal law.”

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