Italian prosecutors have called for Google Inc executives to be jailed in a case related to a video of a taunted youth with Down's Syndrome posted on its Italian website, judicial sources said on Wednesday.
Milan public prosecutors have accused four current and former Google executives of defamation and failure to exercise control over personal data in the case.
The case stems from a complaint by an Italian advocacy group for people with Down's Syndrome, Vivi Down, and the boy's father.
The video shows four male high school students in the Italian city of Turin humiliating the youth. It was filmed from a mobile phone and posted on the site in September 2006.
The prosecutors said the need to safeguard fundamental rights took priority over business and that it was not an issue about freedom but responsibility of companies, the sources said. They are seeking sentences ranging from six months to a year.
A Google spokesman said the company would defend and support its employees and that Google did what was required under European and Italian law.
This prosecution is akin to prosecuting mail service employees for hate speech letters sent in the post. Seeking to hold neutral platforms liable for content posted on them is a direct attack on a free, open Internet and could spell the end of Web 2.0 in Italy, he said in an e-mailed statement.
The next hearing is scheduled for Dec. 16.
The defendants are Google senior vice-president and chief legal officer David Drummond, former Google Italy board member George De Los Reyes, senior product marketing manager Arvind Desikan and global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer.
(Reporting by Manuela D'Alessandro, writing by Danilo Masoni, editing by Janet Lawrence)