A Milan court has convicted three Google Inc executives for the 2006 transmission of a video showing the bullying of a youth with Down's syndrome, the judge in the case told Reuters on Wednesday.
The three were sentenced to six months in jail after being convicted of invasion of privacy, the judge said. A fourth executive was found not guilty.
The case stems from an incident in 2006 when students at an Italian school filmed and then uploaded a clip to Google Video showing them bullying a schoolmate with Down's syndrome.
The complaint was brought by an Italian advocacy group for people with Down's syndrome, Vivi Down, and the boy's father.
Down's syndrome is the most common genetic cause of mental retardation, occurring in about 1 out of 700 live births.
The video, showing four male high school students in Turin humiliating the youth, was filmed from a mobile phone and posted on the site in September 2006.
Google had argued that it removed the video immediately after being notified and cooperated with Italian authorities to help identify the bullies and bring them to justice.
It said that, as hosting platforms that do not create their own content, Google Video, YouTube and Facebook cannot be held responsible for content that others upload, comparing the case to prosecuting the postal system for hate letters sent by mail.
But the prosecutors accused Google of negligence arguing the video remained online for two months even though some web users had already posted comments asking for it to be taken down.
Censoring of web sites has become a hot issue in Italy in recent months, following a spate of hate sites against officials including Berlusconi.
The government briefly studied plans to black out Internet hate sites after fan pages emerged praising an attack on the premier, but the idea was dropped after executives from Facebook, Google and Microsoft agreed to a shared code of conduct rather than legislation.
(Reporting by Milan Newsroom; writing by Stephen Brown in Rome)