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[March 30, 2014]
First Amendment helps to acquit Chinese internet giant [Yerepouni Daily News (Armenia)]
(Yerepouni Daily News (Armenia) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Baidu, a Chinese internet giant, was acquitted by a US court. The plaintiffs accused the company in blocking materials, criticizing actions of Chinese government.
A group of New York content editors brought a lawsuit against Baidu, claiming that Baidu's search engine blocks materials in the US that touches upon the Chinese government's strict censorship laws. The plaintiffs call this a violation of the US Constitution.
“Plaintiffs, self-described ‘promoters of democracy in China through their writings, publications and reporting of pro-democracy events,’ allege that Baidu conspires to prevent ‘pro-democracy political speech’ from appearing in its search-engine results here in the United States,” the ruling says.
Jesse Furman, a US District Judge in Manhattan, disagreed with the plaintiffs, saying that the First Amendment protects Baidu’s right to advocate for systems of government other than democracy just as surely as it protects plaintiffs’ rights to advocate for democracy.
The judge's decision raises an important question, whether the search results of other websites, like US-based Google, are protected by the Frist Amendment. This precedent has a far-reaching impact as it gives the largest Internet websites the ability to present information, conforming to their political, social and cultural views.
As early as in 2012, Google Company asked a law professor Eugene Volokh to write a white book, arguing that the First Amendment protects Internet search engine companies, when it comes to delivering their content.
Once, people used to turn to newspapers and encyclopedias to get the information. Nowadays, they also use Internet search engines to find some necessary information and news. The First Amendment has always been protecting these forms of speech from governmental intervention, even if the matter concerned, what some people call "fairness".
The plaintiffs demanded from the judge to fine Baidu $16 million. Regarding the court's decision, the plaintiffs are eager to appeal the decision. Stephen Preziosi, the prosecution's lawyer, says that this precedent shows a perfect paradox: the issue allows the suppression of free speech, in the name of free speech.
Baidu, Inc. incorporated on January 18, 2000, is a Chinese web services company headquartered in the Baidu Campus in Haidian District in Beijing. Baidu, with more than 500 million regular users in China and a growing following in the US, is the fifth-most trafficked site in the world, behind Yahoo.com, YouTube, Facebook and Google, according to Alexa, a website traffic monitor. It offers many services, including a Chinese language-search engine for websites, audio files, and images.
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