Italy seeks jail time for Google execs

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Italy is seeking prison sentences for four Google executives, over a video posted online.

The case regards a video of students mocking a disabled peer, which was posted to Google Video. Google reportedly took the clip down hours after the first complaint, but Italian prosecutors noted it was up online for two months first.

According to media reports, Italian prosecutors are looking for year-long sentences for Google's chief legal officer David Drummond, global privacy counsel Peter Fleishcer, and former chief financial officer George Reyes, while asking for six months for Arvind Desikan, who is the head of consumer marketing in Britain.

While such punishments sound harsh, even if found guilty, the foursome apparently won't face jail time, as any sentence under three years is automatically commuted in Italy for those without previous convictions.

Google said it did all that it needed to do. "We did exactly what is required under European and Italian law," the firm said in a statement. "We took the video down when notified by the authorities and, thanks to our cooperation, the bullies who recorded and uploaded the video have been identified and punished."

Google added that no less than the fate of the internet was at stake.

"It doesn't matter whether it's an American or an Italian company; large corporation, or small - the issue at stake in this courtroom affects all internet companies and all internet users," the firm said in a statement.

"This prosecution is akin to prosecuting mail service employees for hate speech letters sent in the post," it added. "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."

Google will present its defence on 16 December.

The industry giant also faced an uproar this week after it refused to force a site to take down an offensive image of the US first lady Michelle Obama that had found its way to the top of the image search results.