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Italian Conviction of Google Execs Threatens Global Internet Freedom

Washington, DC– Today, an Italian court in the Vivi Down case convicted David Drummond, Google’s senior vice president of corporate development, Peter Fleischer, global privacy counsel, and George Reyes, a former chief financial officer, of privacy violations for failing to prevent the posting of a video uploaded by a user on the Google Video service. The three men were cleared of a defamation charge.

The following statement can be attributed to Leslie Harris, President & CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technology:


Today’s stunning verdict sets an extremely dangerous precedent that threatens 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. The principle that technological intermediaries should be protected from liability for content posted by users has been a cornerstone of Internet freedom. It is enshrined in both EU and U.S. law.

This ill-advised prosecution and conviction of Google senior executives is plainly contrary to the 2000 EU E-Commerce Directive and to the best practices of thriving Internet economies. If the conviction is allowed to stand, it will chill the provision of web 2.0 services that provide user-generated content platforms in Italy, and Italian Internet users will find themselves without a powerful forum for free expression.

Most troubling, what happened it Italy is unlikely to stay in Italy. The Italian court’s actions today will surely embolden authoritarian regimes and be used justify their own efforts to suppress Internet freedom.