Free Speech, Google / Search Engines, International Law, Technology

Here’s How A Google Executive Gets Arrested Abroad

There are some great perks to working for Google, a company pushing the boundaries of technology. But there’s also a downside to being at the bleeding edge of innovation: some countries might try to hold you back… with handcuffs. This week, police in Sao Paolo detained Brazilian Google chief Fabio Jose Silva Coelho, releasing him only after he promised to appear in court over YouTube videos that violate Brazilian election laws. A judge ordered that the videos in question, which say nasty things about a mayoral candidate, be taken down; Google ignored the order, likely hoping to export American free speech values abroad. Coelho is now in the Brazilian doghouse for the crime of “disobedience.”

The ploy worked. Google caved shortly after Coelho was released.

Google likes to argue that it’s not responsible for the content that its users post, but that argument doesn’t always fly abroad. This is not the first time a Google exec has wound up in trouble over a YouTube posting disliked by local authorities. Three execs became convicts in Italy thanks to a 2006 incident.

Back in 2006, a cell phone video on YouTube of an autistic child being bullied became one of Italy’s most-viewed videos. (They really need some better entertainment over there. Let’s hope Honey Boo Boo gets dubbed in Italian.) It was up for about two months, though Google took it down after receiving complaints.

Not fast enough apparently. Italian prosecutors decided to do some bullying of their own, charging four Google executives with defamation and breaking privacy laws for leaving it up as long as they did.

Legal chief David Drummond, Global privacy chief Peter Fleischer, and former CFO George Reyes are convicts in Italy.

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