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Google execs protest Italian guilty verdicts

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Three Google executives have been given suspended sentences for breaching Italian privacy laws.

The three were found not guilty of defamation but guilty of privacy offences. The case centred on a Google Video clip of a child with Down's syndrome being taunted and hit by four school boys.

The clip was put on Google Video in September 2006 and removed about a month later following complaints.

Charges were filed against four executives: chief legal officer David Drummond, chief privacy officer Peter Fleischer, Arvind Desikan, a video executive and chief financial officer George Reyes. Desikan was cleared of all charges. Fleischer, Drummond and Reyes all got six-month sentences which were suspended.

Google promised to appeal the verdict.

Drummond told the BBC he was outraged at the decision.

He said: "I intend to vigorously appeal this dangerous ruling. It sets a chilling precedent. If individuals like myself and my Google colleagues who had nothing to do with the harassing incident, its filming or its uploading onto Google Video can be held criminally liable solely by virtue of our position at Google, every employee of any internet hosting service faces similar liability."

Italian prosecutors said Google should have sought permission from those involved before putting the video online. Google said it was impossible to pre-screen all Google Video content.

The search and advertising giant also said it responded promptly when it received complaints about the clip. Prosecutors said that since the clip was top of the "most viewed clips" chart, the company should not have waited for complaints from pressure group Vivi Down.

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