updated 07:25 am EDT, Thu May 19, 2011
“Great Firewall of China” leads to lawsuit
Chinese Internet search giant Baidu has been sued in the US by a group of free speech advocates for censoring Chinese freedom of speech websites. The group of eight New York residents has also included the Chinese government in its complaint. The group claims that as the Baidu site can be utilized in the US, that it violates the US Constitution by reportedly colluding with the Chinese government to omit search results.
While Baidu has so far declined to comment, China’s Foreign Ministry believes that any case against it is not valid.
"The way the Chinese government manages the Internet in accordance with the law accords with international norms and is a sovereign matter," ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told the media on Thursday in Beijing.
"According to international law, foreign courts have no jurisdiction."
However, the plaintiffs argue that Baidu’s site, which omits search results for topics like the Tiananmen Square anti-democracy crackdown, is breaking US law.
"We allege a private company is acting as the arm and agent of a foreign state to suppress political speech, and permeate U.S. borders to violate the First Amendment," sai Stephen Preziosi, the lawyer for the plaintiffs.
The lawsuit seeks $2 million in damages for each of the eight plaintiffs, totaling $16 million. They do not, however, seek to force Baidu to change its policies as the company ultimately remains outside of US jurisdiction.
Google withdrew its service from mainland China over censorship issues, and instead redirects users visiting its China homepage to its Hong Kong site. Thus, it avoided any censorship issues by moving out from behind the so-called “Great Firewall of China.” [via Reuters]