In a case with huge implications for web site operators, an Italian court on Feb. 24 convicted three Google executives of privacy violations because they did not act quickly enough to pull down an online video that showed bullies abusing an autistic boy, reports the Associated Press. In the first such criminal trial of its kind, Judge Oscar Magi sentenced the three to a six-month suspended sentence and absolved them of defamation charges. Google called the decision “astonishing” and said it would appeal. “The judge has decided I’m primarily responsible for the actions of some teenagers who uploaded a reprehensible video to Google video,” Google’s global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer, who was convicted in absentia, said in a statement. The trial could help define whether the internet in Italy is an open, self-regulating platform or if content must be better monitored for abusive material. Google, based in Mountain View, Calif., had said it considered the trial a threat to freedom on the internet because it could force providers to attempt an impossible task—prescreening the thousands of hours of footage uploaded every day onto sites like YouTube. “We will appeal this astonishing decision,” Google spokesman Bill Echikson said at the courthouse. “We are deeply troubled by this decision. It attacks the principles of freedom on which the internet was built.”

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staff and wire services reports