Four Google executives from Italy are facing jail time as a lawsuit brought against the company gets underway in Milan. The issue at heart is a video of four students bullying a colleague with Down's Syndrome posted on Google Video, which stayed on the site for several months before being taken down. The prosecutors claim that allowing the video to be uploaded was against Italian law.
The trial has seen several delays and its outcome could have serious repercussions for user-generated content providers. The Internet company is accused of not having adequate protection and filters against offending content and of not having enough human supervisors of the videos. Google argued that it had no responsibility over the content posted and that it had committed no crime in allowing it to be uploaded. Furthermore, it took down the video after it received notifications from other users regarding its content. However, Italian law requires all participants in a video to give their consent before being published, so the prosecution argues that by allowing users to upload the video it has contravened this law.
American engineer Jeremy Doig appeared before the court in a closed door session to explain to the judge how Google Video works and the fact that it is operated in the US. He also explained how Google removed the video in less than 24 hours after receiving a complaint about it. A lawyer representing Google in the case, Giuliano Pisapia, concluded that the engineer's testimony proved that “Google had not committed any crime.”
The four Google employees facing the charges are David Carl Drummond, head of Google Italy's managing board, George De Los Reyes, a board member, Peter Fleitcher, who is in charge of privacy protection in Europe, and Arvind Desikan, head of videos for Europe. They face up to three years in jail and a fine if found guilty. Google obviously believes that it can't be held responsible for what its users post and says it will fight the case all the way.