March 02, 2009
The Milan Four
by Paul Jacob
Four executives of Google — call them the Milan Four — are on trial in Italy for the crime of being employed by Google when an objectionable video was posted to a Google video site. The charges are defamation and privacy violation. The accused face jail time.
The video showed teasing of a boy with Down syndrome. As soon as Google was told about the posting, the company removed it. According to reports, the four were not even “directly involved in handing video from Italy.”
Obviously, this is not a just prosecution. If anything, one would go after the persons who posted the video. If prosecuting the four executives is warranted, why not haul every single Google executive into court? Or every single Google employee, for that matter? They're all equally “guilty.”
In general, it's bad to prosecute innocent people at random in the service of some political agenda.
This is happening all too often, not just in Italy, but in our own country. Prosecutors are increasingly becoming politicians, and are out for greater name identification. They trade their good judgment for headline-grabbing stunt prosecutions. Oftentimes, the cases fizzle. But too often, the damage done to innocent people cannot be dismissed when the false charges are.
I hope the Italian job fizzles too. Meanwhile, Google should defend itself using the viral techniques of the Internet, never letting up on this outrageous prosecution.
Paul Jacob's "Common Sense" is published by the Citizens in Charge Foundation. Their website can be visited at www.citizensincharge.org.
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