Italian prosecutors have accused four current and former Google executives of defamation and failure to exercise control over personal data.
Google strongly denounced the case, calling it “a direct attack on a free, open internet.”
The case, being heard in a Milan court, stems from a complaint by an Italian advocacy group for people with Down’s Syndrome, Vivi Down, and the boy’s father.
The video shows four male high school students in the Italian city of Turin humiliating the youth. It was filmed from a mobile phone and posted on the site in September 2006, where it remained for two months.
The prosecutors said the need to safeguard fundamental rights took priority over business and that it was not an issue about freedom but responsibility of companies, the sources said.
They are seeking jail sentences ranging from six months to a year. The maximum sentence for such charges – complicity in defamation and harm to private life – is three years in prison.
A Google spokesman said the company would defend and support its employees and that Google did what was required under European and Italian law.
“This prosecution is akin to prosecuting mail service employees for hate speech letters sent in the post,” Google’s spokesman said.
“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,” he said.
The next hearing is scheduled for Dec. 16.
The defendants are Google senior vice-president and chief legal officer David Drummond, former Google Italy board member George De Los Reyes, senior product marketing manager Arvind Desikan and global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer.