The ongoing spat pitting Google vs. the Italian judiciary following the local convictions of three top Mountain View execs has escalated into a verbal smackdown after Google chief exec Eric Schmidt dismissed the ruling as “bullshit.”
“The judge was flat wrong. So let’s pick at random three people and shoot them. It’s bullshit. It offends me and it offends the company,” lamented Schmidt to the Financial Times on June 3.
In February, a Milan court convicted the Google execs for violating the privacy of an autistic Italian boy by allowing a video of him being bullied to be posted on the site in 2006. Google has appealed the ruling, which has been blasted by critics as a threat to Internet freedom.
Schmidt’s undiplomatic outburst reopened the rift with Italy where, more than anything else, it was the perceived arrogance of his language that grated local public opinion, and also the judge himself.
“It’s the style that defines the man,” countered Milan magistrate Alfredo Robledo, who issued the ruling in the case, in an interview with Corriere della Sera. “In Italy and in Europe freedom of expression stops when it oversteps people’s rights, including the right to privacy. Google needs to realize this.”
“They Want the Far West,” read the Corriere headline, referring to Google, and presumably, America’s fabled Wild West, which is, well, far from Italy.