TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Italy Also Opens Google Probe

Italy Also Opens Google Probe

Silvia Aloisi (
Fri, 24 Nov 2006 17:51:53 -0600

Italy opens probe into Google over bullying video
By Silvia Aloisi

Italian prosecutors on Friday put two Google Italy representatives
under investigation as part of an inquiry into how a video of
teenagers harassing an autistic classmate surfaced on its Video site,
a judicial source said.

The two are being investigated for allegedly failing to check on the
content of the video posted on the Internet search engine's Web site.

The video, which sparked outrage in the country, showed four teenagers
beating and poking fun at a 17-year old disabled boy in a classroom in
the northern Italian city of Turin.

Prosecutors have already put the four students and a school teacher
under investigation. The students have also been suspended until the
end of the school year.

Being put under investigation does not imply any guilt in Italy.

A spokeswoman for Google in Europe said the Internet search engine was
sorry for the distress caused by the video and had acted swiftly when
it was informed of its content.

"There was this very disturbing video which was posted on Google Video
a couple of weeks ago and we promptly took it down when we were
notified," said Google's Rachel Whetstone.

"We've been helping Italian police with the investigation and we're
happy to cooperate."

In Europe, Google is facing a growing number of legal challenges by
plantiffs seeking to enforce local laws that seek to rein in the free
flow of information on which the Internet relies.

U.S. law generally treats Google as a distributor of information
rather than having editorial responsibility for the content that
appears on its automated Web sites.

Italy's Education Minister Giuseppe Fioroni said the prosecutors had
been right to apply to the Internet the same legislation that in Italy
regulates what can be published in newspapers or broadcast on

"I've said repeatedly that there can't be double standards, one for
the press and television and another for the Internet," Fioroni told
ANSA news agency.

The Internet search engine shared the same duty as other forms of
media in distributing "responsible" content, he said.

Google's policy bans the uploading of violent content, but with
thousands of videos posted every day on the Internet the search engine
relies largely on users to ensure that is adhered to, Whetstone said.

In a separate case in Brussels, a Belgian copyright group has
challenged Google News for copyright infringement. Earlier this month,
Google faced a copyright infringement suit by filmmakers over a
pirated documentary that was temporarily posted on the Google Video

(Additional reporting by Eric Auchard in San Francisco)

Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.

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