Today is judgment day for the four Google executives charged by Italian prosecutors in June 2008. The New York Times blog reports a trial against them involving criminal charges of defamation and privacy violation begins this week in Milan.
Like we reported in the past, the case is about a video uploaded to YouTube where a disabled child is being taunted. This case was supposed to go to trial in September, but did not actually happen until today. The four executives include David Drummond, Google’s senior vice president and chief legal officer; George Reyes, its former chief financial officer; and Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel, according to a Google spokesman. The fourth executive worked at Google Video in London, the spokesman said, declining to identify him.
Here is the statement Google gave the New York Times:
As we have repeatedly made clear, our hearts go out to the victim and his family. We are pleased that as a result of our cooperation the bullies in the video have been identified and punished. We feel that bringing this case to court is totally wrong. It’s akin to prosecuting mail service employees for hate speech letters sent in the post. What’s more, seeking to hold neutral platforms liable for content posted on them is a direct attack on a free, open Internet. We will continue to vigorously defend our employees in this prosecution.
Postscript From Danny Sullivan: It’s unclear from the New York Times article, but I don’t believe any of the executives charged are actually attending the trial themselves. I spoke with David Drummond about the issue back in December. He said that the charged executives have been advised to avoid any trips to Italy until the case is resolved (though a trip to any EU country I think would potentially subject them to an extradiction order, if the Italian authorities were really wanting to get them).
Postscript 2 From Danny Sullivan: Followed up with Google and was told:
For scheduling reasons, the judge in the case has postponed the opening of the trial until the 18th of February. We have no further information to share at this time.
After that, I asked again about the status of the executives, if they were going to participate in the trial or not. I was told they were NOT in Italy today and that Google can’t speculate what will happen at the trial. Given that they weren’t there today, I’d wouldn’t expect them to show up with the trial begins after being postponed (if it begins at all — the postponement might indicate further negotiations).