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Online video sharing future still uncertain as Google trial delayed

Warwick Ashford

An Italian court has again postponed a trial of four Google executives which could threaten the future of online video-sharing services.

The trial, which has been delayed several times after it began February, relates to a video posted on Google's Italian video sharing website in 2006 of four teenagers mocking a disabled classmate.

The trial was to resume yesterday, but due to the illness of an interpreter, has now been delayed postponed until September.

Italian authorities charged the four Google executives with failing to protect personal data after conducting a two-year investigation.

Google's global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer, chief legal officer David Drummond, former CFO George Reyes, and a former Google Video executive face up to 36 months in prison if found guilty.

Italian prosecutors argue that Google did not have adequate content filters or enough staff to monitor content, and that the video was uploaded without the consent of all parties involved.

Google's defence has been that it removed the video as soon as the company became aware of it and has co-operated with investigators in identifying the four boys involved.

Google is being prosecuted as an internet content provider and, unlike service providers, Italian law states that content providers are responsible for third-party content.

The same law regulates Italian newspaper and television publishers, but Google says the internet is more like a tool than a publication and the company cannot be blamed for how it is used.

In a statement issued ahead of the trial, Google said the case was "akin to prosecuting mail service employees for hate speech letters sent in the post."

Google has argued that the case hits at the heart of internet freedom, saying it will be impossible for providers to check the thousands of videos that are uploaded to sites like YouTube every day.

According to legal and privacy experts, the outcome of the trial could result in new privacy rules that could make it extremely difficult or even impossible for video-sharing websites to operate.


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