Google Execs Face Defamation Charges

A trial involving four Google executives charged of defamation and failure to exercise control over personal database has been postponed to February 18.

The criminal charges are in connection to a user posting a Google video that depicts a disabled teen being harassed by peers.

The Google executives were supposed to appear before a criminal court in Milan, Italy on Tuesday.

The executives include Google's senior vice president and chief counsel David C. Drummond; global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer; former Google chief financial officer George Reyes; and an unidentified former executive who worked at Google Video in London.

The men could face up to a maximum of 36 months, if convicted, in what is said to be the first case of a privacy executive being held accountable for his company's actions.

Google responded to the criminal charges by saying that the very nature of the case going to court was "totally wrong."

The company has shown its sympathy for the teenager and his family, adding that it was Google's co-operation that led to the "bullies in the video" being "identified and punished."

However, the company said that it cannot ultimately be held responsible for the content, and that "seeking to hold neutral platforms liable for content posted on them is a direct attack on a free, open Internet."

The company said it would "vigorously defend" the four employees in the prosecution.

According to a report by the International Association of Privacy Professionals, the charges against the Google executives is in relation to a three minute video that was uploaded by a user on Google's Italian website in September 2006.

In the video, four high-school boys in Turin are shown harassing a 17-year peer with Down Syndrome.

Under EU law, Internet service providers in Europe are not held responsible for any third-party content uploaded to their websites.

However, if anyone complains about content they consider offensive, the ISP must immediately remove it.

Google, which is being treated as an ISP in the prosecution, received a couple of complaints about the video of the Turin teenager, including one from the Italian Interior Ministry.

Upon receiving the complaint, Google took down the video in less than 24 hours of receiving the complaints.

Despite this, Milan's public prosecutor, Francesco Cajani, insists that Google's privacy executives were still in breach of the country's penal code, according to the IAPP report.

No responsibility can be taken for the content of external Internet sites.

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