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U.S. ambassador to Italy criticizes conviction of Google executives

2010-02-25 08:42 BJT

ROME, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. ambassador to Italy David Thorne criticized the Milan court ruling on Wednesday convicting three Google executives of violating privacy laws for having delayed the removal of an online video showing classmates abusing an autistic boy.

Thorne expressed all his disapproval and resentment in a press release issued by the U.S. embassy in Rome the same afternoon following the verdict, according to leading daily website Corriere della Sera.

"Freedom on the internet is vital for democracy," said Thorne. "The U.S. is negatively affected by today's ruling, online abuses must not be an excuse to violate the right to a free internet."

Despite recognizing the blasphemous video contents, the ambassador said: "We disagree on the fact that the responsibility of the internet users who uploaded those contents must fall upon the internet service providers."

"The fundamental principle of freedom on internet is vital for all democracies that recognize and defend the freedom of expression," he said.

However, Thorne noted that the freedom of online expression must not be a means to justify abuses. "Offensive material cannot become an excuse to violate this fundamental right."

On Wednesday morning judge Oscar Magi of the Milan court gave the Google managers a six-month suspended sentence for violating privacy laws but absolved them of defamation charges.

The three included Google's senior vice president and chief legal officer, David Drummond, former chief financial officer George Reyes and global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer. Senior product marketing manager Arvind Desikan was acquitted.

The charges were sought by Vivi Down, an advocacy group for people with Down syndrome. The group alerted prosecutors to the 2006 video showing an autistic student in the northern city of Turin being beaten and insulted by classmates at school.

In the landmark case, prosecutors accused the executives of defamation of character and failing to oversee personal content when the students uploaded the video on Google Video.

All four executives, who were tried in absentia, denied any wrongdoing in the case that has attracted international attention because of its implications regarding Internet privacy.

Editor: Zhang Pengfei | Source: Xinhua