Google presents defense in Italian bullying video case

The company says it responded to reports of abuse, but critics say complaints were ignored

A Google engineer appeared in court in Milan Tuesday to defend the company's conduct in connection with posting a video showing the bullying of a disabled teenager.

The video had been handled by servers in the U.S., Google staff in Italy had not been involved in the process, and the video was removed as soon as Google received a report of abuse about it, Jeremy Doig, one of the engineers who helped create Google Video, told the court.

The three-minute mobile-phone video was posted by Google in 2006 and four Google executives -- chief legal officer David Drummond, privacy counsel Peter Fleischer, former Chief Financial Officer George Reyes and former head of Google Video Europe Arvind Desikan -- are on trial in Milan for defamation and violation of Italy's privacy law.

Google staff monitored the content of videos before they were posted and the company responded rapidly to reports of abuse coming from its users, Doig told the court, according to lawyers present at the closed-door hearing.

"Doig told the court that the offensive video was eliminated in just two-and-a-half hours from when the company first received a complaint," Giuliano Pisapia, a lawyer representing Google, said in a telephone interview.

The first complaint was received from a user and almost immediately afterward the company was contacted by the police, who had been alerted to the video by Vividown, a charitable organization representing the interests of Down Syndrome sufferers, Pisapia said.

The film, which was shown in court Tuesday, showed a handicapped teenage boy being harassed by four classmates in his Turin high school.

The boy did not actually suffer from Down Syndrome and has withdrawn as a plaintiff from the case against Google.

Pisapia said it was difficult to tell from the film that the boy was handicapped. Vividown became involved because at one point in the film one of the bullies pretended to telephone, saying "We are from Vividown. Look at this Mongoloid boy, come and collect him," Pisapia said.

The boy had been bullied at school for two years and had been hugely relieved when Google's collaboration with the police enabled the identification of his tormentors.

"From that moment on he was reborn. An unpleasant incident has given rise to something positive," Pisapia said. The Google lawyer said Italian law did not require the prior monitoring of digital content before it is posted to the Internet but only that content providers remove offensive material at the request of the judicial authorities and assist in identifying the perpetrators of a crime, as Google had done in this case.

Critics say Google allowed the offensive video to remain online for two months despite complaints from users.

"Those complaints were in comments posted under the video. They were not reports of abuse," Pisapia said. "I think the hearing went very well," he said.

Guido Camera, a lawyer representing Vividown on the basis that the organization was defamed in the fake telephone call contained in the video, said the hearing had not gone entirely Google's way.

"Numerous significant aspects emerged from a technical point of view," Camera said. "The crux of the case concerns what happened before the complaint was lodged and the way sensitive personal data was handled. I can't say in all sincerity that what we saw today was a triumph for the theories of the defense. Let's wait and see what the verdict has to say."

The trial was adjourned until Nov. 25, when prosecutors Alfredo Robledo and Francesco Cajani will deliver their summing up.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags GoogleItalylegallawsuits

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Philip Willan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?