Illogical beyond words: Italy vs. Google

Normally I relish the opportunity to roast large companies like Google and hold them accountable. In this case, however, no sane person can possibly side with Google’s opponent, the Italian government, in this case.

This TechCrunch story links to a post on the official Google blog which describes a situation where three Google employees were found criminally responsible for failing to comply with the Italian privacy code in relation to a video uploaded by a YouTube user in Italy. A fourth Google employee was acquitted. From the Google blog post:

To be clear, none of the four Googlers charged had anything to do with this video. They did not appear in it, film it, upload it or review it. None of them know the people involved or were even aware of the video’s existence until after it was removed.

… In essence this ruling means that employees of hosting platforms like Google Video are criminally responsible for content that users upload. We will appeal this astonishing decision because the Google employees on trial had nothing to do with the video in question. Throughout this long process, they have displayed admirable grace and fortitude. It is outrageous that they have been subjected to a trial at all.

This is paramount to holding employees of an automobile manufacturer such as Ford or GM criminally liable for a drunk driver’s actions (or for that matter, someone at, say, a Budweiser or Coors plant). It’s crazy. It’s dumb. In fact “galactically stupid” and “box of rocks dumb” don’t really do it justice at all.

I’m not even sure the wording used to describe the intelligence of a computer in a book I read as a kid would do it. That book described a computer as having the intelligence of a very stupid worm. To compare this judge’s intelligence to the stupidest of the worms would be an insult to the worms.

I feel compelled to drag out the quote from the FSF’s “Some Confusing or Loaded Words and Phrases That Are Worth Avoiding” yet again:

The idea that laws decide what is right or wrong is mistaken in general. Laws are, at their best, an attempt to achieve justice; to say that laws define justice or ethical conduct is turning things upside down.

Never has this been clearer than this instance. If the judge is applying the law correctly, then the law is more broken than the result of dropping a grand piano from an airliner. If not, then this should be reversed on appeal and the judge stripped of his authority.

If allowed to stand, this is a horrifying threat to the Internet as we know it, and it may not remain confined to Italy and Italian law. I concur with this quote later in the post:

[W]e are deeply troubled by this conviction for another equally important reason. It attacks the very principles of freedom on which the Internet is built. Common sense dictates that only the person who films and uploads a video to a hosting platform could take the steps necessary to protect the privacy and obtain the consent of the people they are filming.

Indeed, common sense isn’t so common anymore. Remember this if you’re travelling to Italy.