Don't mess with Berlusconi
Google has learned about the perils of miffing Italian Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi the hard way. Yesterday three of its executives were jailed in Italy for allowing a video of a disabled kid being beaten up to stay on its YouTube site.
Three Google executives were convicted of violating Italian privacy laws and were given a six month suspended sentence. Bill Echikson, a spokesman for Google, called a judge's ruling against executives “astonishing” however most people in Italy would disagree.
Google has been at odds with Berlusconi for ages. Berlusconi who has never paid for a prostitute in his life coincidently happens to be suing Google for large wodges of cash. He claims the outfit is making a fortune by allowing the great unwashed to rip off his piss poor television programs and show them on YouTube.
Berlusconi, who was a former member of the banned right wing masonic group P2, has a habit of staying on the right side of the law courts. Despite being the most legally embattled premier in history he has managed to avoid being convicted of anything. When he was struck in the head by a mentally ill person weilding a model cathedral many expected his attacker to feel the “full force of the law” rather than get treated properly.
They were also not surprised to see Google getting the kicking it did. A criminal case of this nature getting to court, along with the dramatic arrest of one of the Google people at the centre of the row, has all the hall marks of a determined legal system. However anyone in Italy will tell you that it does not have a determined legal system unless the right people are shouted at or made offers that they can't refuse.
With Berlusconi at the top and his own court case with Google pending it seems they have the motivation to chase people until they are in jail. If Google loses the appeal then it could have sweeping implications worldwide for Internet freedom. If Google is not simply a tool for its users, then it is no different from any other media company and can regulated.
In Italy that means Berlusconi can regulate his own rivals even when one of them uses the Internet.