Back in late 2006, a video was uploaded to YouTube that showed some Italian students bullying a kid with Down's Syndrome. Google says that it took down the video "within hours" of being aware of its existence, but that wasn't enough for a judge in Milan - who has convicted four executives at the company for failure to comply with Italian privacy law.
David Drummond, Peter Fleischer and George Reyes were found not guilty of criminal defamation, but still face 6 months in prison for invasion of privacy. Google, for its part, has called the ruling a "serious threat to the web" and said that it would most certainly be appealing. It referred to the ruling as "outrageous" in a display of indignation rarely seen by the company.
Google also claims that the ruling "attacks the very principles of freedom on which the Internet is built", adding that its interpretation of European law gives "safe harbours" to hosting platforms for the user-generated content that they contain, as long as they operate a notice-and-takedown principle to get rid of objectionable content.
It certainly sets an interesting precedent for websites in the country that allow anyone to contribute content. Whether it'll be overturned by the appeals court remains to be seen, but it'll likely be some time before that case arrives. When it does, we'll keep you informed of the situation.
Update: BrokeP, former spokesperson for the Pirate Bay, has launched a blistering attack on Google on his Twitter account. He said: "Google was not there to support The Pirate Bay. Now they get to taste the same shit", referring to the Pirate Bay's block in the country, after being found responsible for the content shared by its users.