Google is to face criminal charges in Italy over a video which appeared on one of its sites showing a disabled teenager being taunted by his peers.
Italian prosecutors have indicated that they will press charges against four Google executives over a video which was posted on one of the search giant's Italian sites in 2006, which showed four youths making fun of a disabled teenager in a classroom in the northern city of Turin.
Magistrates who have recently ended a two-year investigation into the incident claim that the airing of the 191-second clip, which showed the youths making fun of the teenager before hitting him over the head with a box of tissues, amounted to a breach of privacy and was defamatory.
A spokesman for Google was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying that the company co-operated with Italian prosecutors throughout their investigation and that the video was removed from the site in question within hours of administrators being notified of its existence in September, 2006.
Google has had several run-ins with governments around the world over its video-sharing site, which does not screen content before it is uploaded and relies on its users to point out offensive content.
The case bears resemblances to an incident in the UK in November last year, when a video which appeared to show a 23-year-old woman being sexually assaulted was posted on YouTube. Google, which owns YouTube, was not prosecuted in that case, although it admitted that it had been too slow to remove the clip.
The Italian investigation was prompted after a group acting on behalf of people with Down syndrome was alerted to the video. The four youths who filmed the incident are also reported to have faced criminal prosecution.
A Google spokesman was quoted as saying that there was no basis for the legal action because under EU legislation - which has been incorporated into Italian law - Google isn't required to monitor third-party content on its sites. It must only take down offending content when it is notified.
In the past governments in several countries - including Pakistan, Thailand, and Morocco - have temporarily suspended YouTube for streaming what they said was offensive content.
A spokesman for Google today declined to comment on the proceedings.
Friday, July 25, 2008