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Three Google executives sentenced over ‘happy slap’ video

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-02-25

Internet giant Google has vowed to appeal an Italian court’s decision to hand down suspended sentences to three of its executives over a video posted on Google Videos showing a Down’s syndrome teenager being bullied.

An Italian court on Wednesday convicted three senior Google Italy executives over a “happy slap” video showing a Down's syndrome teenager being bullied that was posted on the Google Videos site.

The video was uploaded to the company’s website in 2006 and remained online for two months.

It showed four schoolchildren bullying the teenager with Down's syndrome in front of more than a dozen others who did not intervene.

The bullies were suspended from their school in Turin, northern Italy, after teachers and police witnessed their antics on the website.

The victim’s family dropped a lawsuit against Google at the end of last year, but Down's syndrome advocacy group Vivi Down and the city of Milan remained as civil plaintiffs.

“Reprehensible”

Google Senior Vice-President David Drummond, former Italy board member George De Los Reyes and Google’s Chief Privacy Counsel Peter Fleischer were each given six-month suspended sentences for violation of privacy.

A fourth executive was acquitted, while all four were acquitted on a charge of defamation.

Google, which will appeal the Milan court’s ruling, objected to its employees being held criminally responsible, even after the video was taken down immediately after the authorities demanded its removal.

In a statement posted on its official blog (googleblog.blogspot.com) after the ruling, Google said: "The video was totally reprehensible and we took it down within hours of being notified by the Italian police."

But it added: "European Union law was drafted specifically to give hosting providers a safe harbour from liability so long as they remove illegal content once they are notified of its existence."

Date created : 2010-02-24

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