Four Google Officials Likely to Stand Trial in Italy

Google is awaiting confirmation that four employees will face charges in Italy for failing to stop the publishing of a video of a disabled teenager being bullied.

The employees will face charges of defamation and failure to exercise control over personal data, with court proceedings to start Feb. 3 in Milan, according to Reuters, citing anonymous sources.

Prosecutors appear concerned that the video also highlighted the boy's disability, which could run afoul of data protection rules, said Marco Pancini, Google's European public policy counsel.

Google does not know the exact charges yet, Pancini said. The company said in a statement it is disappointed information was leaked to the media before Google was notified.

The three-minute video in question depicts four youths harassing a boy with Down's Syndrome and eventually hitting him in the head with a pack of tissues.

It was posted in September 2006 on Google Video, one of the company's video upload sites. Google removed the video within a day after it received a complaint from the Italian Interior Ministry, which has a department that investigates Internet-related crime. By that time, the video garnered around 12,000 hits.

Google maintains charges against the employees are unwarranted, Pancini said. Europe's E-commerce Directive exempts service providers from prescreening content before it is publicly posted, he said. Also, the video was technically uploaded to a Google server in the U.S., not in Italy, Pancini said.

"It was a terrible video," Pancini said, adding that Google is concerned about the case's impact on censorship on the Internet.

The defendants include David C. Drummond, a Google senior vice president, corporate development and chief legal officer. Pancini said Drummond did paperwork to create Google Italy, but has never lived in the country.

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