The case involves Google's YouTube service, which Italian prosecutors allege violated Italian defamation and privacy laws by not removing a video from its library quickly enough. The prosecutors have filed charges against four Google executives and are trying them in absentia in Milan.
Google claims that the case violates EU rules against holding providers of internet services liable for content uploaded by their users.
In the US, section 230 of the Communications Decency Act contains a similar, very powerful rule against holding website operators responsible for the content posted by their users. Many credit section 230 with allowing the spread of interactive services over the internet. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals most recently upheld the applicability of section 230 to Yahoo profiles in Barnes v. Yahoo!.
Observers of the Italian trial fear that it could limit what services companies provide on the internet.
"It's the first case of this kind in Italy and Europe," said Alessandro del Ninno, a lawyer and expert on Internet law. "The risk is that it will force providers to preventively control the content, something that goes against the very nature of the Internet."Check back for more updates once the trial gets underway.