Conviction of Google execs called 'stunning' threat to free speech

“Today’s stunning verdict sets an extremely dangerous precedent that threatens free expression and chills innovation on the global Internet,” said Leslie Harris, president and CEO of the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT).

Harris said the decision “is precisely the sort of action by a Western democracy that undermines” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s call for global Internet freedom.

Harris spoke just hours after an Italian court decided to convict the three Google executives for violating Italian privacy laws. The dispute involved a 2006 video posted on Google Video of a boy with Down syndrome being bullied at school.

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Google took down the offending video, but a group representing Down syndrome patients said that was not enough and sued the company for violating privacy laws by allowing the clip to be posted. Three of the four executives charged in the case were sentenced to jail time by a Milan judge.

Harris recommended that the U.S. government take action to keep the Internet “open, innovative and free.”

“We talk to our allies every day, and we ought to be delivering a message about how unhelpful and dangerous these developments are,” she said.

CDT is a civil liberties nonprofit group dedicated to keeping the Internet open, innovative and free.