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Italian prosecutors seek jail time for Google execs

Mountain View in hot water over 'defamation' video

Italian prosecutors are pushing for Google execs to be jailed in a case over an internet video that showed the bullying of a teenager with Down's Syndrome.

In September 2006, someone posted a three-minute mobile phone video to Google's Italian website in which four Turin teenagers make fun of a classmate with Down's Syndrome.

In July 2008, after two years of investigation, Italian authorities filed criminal charges against four Google execs: chief legal officer David Drummond, chief privacy officer Peter Fleischer, senior product marketing manager Arvind Desikanand and chief financial officer George Reyes, who has since left the company.

Judicial sources told Reuters yesterday that Milan public prosecutors are calling on Google's execs to be jailed. They accuse the four men of defamation and failure to exercise control over personal data in the case, which was brought following a complaint from Italian Down's Syndrome advocacy group, Vivi Down, and the boy's father.

The video in question showed a 17-year-old boy with Down's Syndrome being repeatedly hit over the head with a box of tissues by four other 17-year-olds. It was uploaded on 8 September, 2006, and almost a month later, Google received two takedown notices - one from an individual user and one from the Italian Ministry.

Prosecutors argued that there was a need to "safeguard fundamental rights" and that companies should be held responsible for making available such material on the internet.

They are pushing for sentences ranging from six months to a year to be handed down to the four Google execs, with the next hearing due on 16 December.

Google gave The Register this statement:

"It doesn't matter whether it's an American or an Italian company; large corporation, or small - the issue at stake in this courtroom affects all internet companies and all internet users. We did exactly what is required under European and Italian law. We took the video down when notified by the authorities and, thanks to our cooperation, the bullies who recorded and uploaded the video have been identified and punished.

"This prosecution is akin to prosecuting mail service employees for hate speech letters sent in the post. Seeking to hold neutral platforms liable for content posted on them is a direct attack on a free, open internet and could spell the end of Web 2.0 in Italy." ®

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