Page last updated at 10:15 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 11:15 UK

Google bosses on trial in Italy

Google with a microphone
Google says the case stifles net freedoms

The trial of four Google employees has begun in Milan with an engineer from the search giant giving evidence.

The employees are accused of breaking Italian law in allowing a video of a teenager with autism to be posted online.

The case, subject to lengthy delays, could have major ramifications for content providers around the globe.

Engineer Jeremy Doig's testimony sought to show that "Google had not committed any crime", said Google's lawyer.

The employees standing trial are David Carl Drummond, head of Google Italy's managing board; George De Los Reyes, a board member; Peter Fleitcher, in charge of privacy protection in Europe; and Arvind Desikan, who worked in marketing for Google Video.

Privacy law

The video, posted on Google Video in 2006 shortly before the firm acquired YouTube, showed a teenager with autism being bullied by four students in front of more than a dozen others.

Prosecutors argue that Google did not have adequate content filters or enough staff to monitor videos.

They also argue that Google broke Italian privacy law by not preventing the the content from being uploaded without the consent of all parties involved.

The video remained online for several months before Google received complaints and removed it.

Mr Doig explained that Google Video was controlled in the US and that the video was removed as soon as it was brought to Google's attention.

Google's lawyers also point out that, in addition to withdrawing the video, the company provided information on who had posted it.

The four students were later expelled from the remainder of the academic year from their school in Turin, northern Italy.

The victim withdrew a complaint but the nearby city of Milan lodged a civil suit along with a Down's syndrome advocacy group, Vividown.

The executives face up to three years in jail if convicted.

A verdict is not expected until December.

Correction 25 Feb 2010: This story has been amended since it was first published. The original story suggested that the bullied teenager had Down's Syndrome, not autism.

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