Google is to face criminal charges in Italy over a video which appeared on one of its Web sites showing a teenager with Down syndrome being taunted by his peers.

Italian prosecutors have indicated that they will press charges against four Google executives over a video which was posted on one of the search giant's Italian sites in 2006, which showed four youths making fun of a disabled teenager in a classroom in the northern city of Turin.

Magistrates who have recently ended a two-year investigation into the incident claim that the airing of the 191-second clip, which showed the youths making fun of the teenager before hitting him over the head with a box of tissues, amounted to a breach of privacy and was defamatory.

A spokesman for Google was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying that the company co-operated with Italian prosecutors throughout their investigation and that the video was removed from the site in question within hours of administrators being notified of its existence in September 2006.

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