Google's recent legal woes in Italy caught the Internet search giant by surprise, according a company statement Monday.
The search giant apparently was unaware that prosecutors in Milan had made a decision to move forward with defamation and breach of privacy charges against four current and former Google officials, until published reportsbegan to surface late last week.
Italian prosecutors are reportedly planning to formally charge the individuals, after a two-year investigation into third parties posting video onto its site that showed a teen with Down syndrome taunted by a group of other teens.
Google, in a statement, said:
We are extremely disappointed that having worked so hard to co-operate with the local prosecutor in Milan news of this prosecution appears to have been leaked to the media without our being informed first. As we have repeatedly made clear our hearts go out to the victim and his family - we are pleased that as a result of our co-operation the bullies in the video have been identified and punished. However, we feel that bringing this case to court is totally wrong - it's akin to prosecuting the mail service for hate speech letters sent in the post. What's more it's a direct attack on a free, open Internet.
A Feb. 3 hearing is reportedly scheduled to formally charge the individuals.