The Criminal Court of Milan has suspended proceedings against four Google executives to allow time to address relevant procedural considerations. The proceedings mark the culmination of a two-year investigation conducted by Italian authorities. The investigation focused on video footage made available on Google Video that depicted a disabled boy being taunted by his fellow classmates. As result of the video footage, Google executives face charges of defamation and privacy infringement.
For purposes of the criminal proceedings, Google is considered an internet content provider. Under the Italian penal code, internet content providers are distinct from internet service providers and bear responsibility for the content they make available online. As such, the Italian Prosecutor in the Google case has argued that companies are responsible for all content on their site. These charges raise questions about potential criminal liability for other online companies that allow user-generated content, such as providers of social networking sites.
The Criminal Court proceedings are expected to begin in Milan on February 18, 2009.