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Eight New Yorkers sue Baidu for $16m

Chinese gov search glovepuppet 'permeates US borders'

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Baidu is being sued by eight New York residents, who filed a lawsuit yesterday against the company accusing the search engine of censoring internet information in collusion with the People's Republic.

According to Reuters, the complaint claims violation of the US Constitution. It names Baidu and, unusually, the Chinese government as defendants in the case.

The suit was filed in the US District Court in Manhattan, New York. It claims that Baidu operates as an "enforcer" to Beijing policies by censoring pro-democracy content on the internet.

An example cited is China's military action against protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

The plaintiffs, described in the complaint as pro-democracy activists, allege that their writings and videos have been suppressed by Baidu.

"We allege a private company is acting as the arm and agent of a foreign state to suppress political speech, and permeate US borders to violate the First Amendment," the plaintiffs' lawyer Stephen Preziosi told Reuters. The idea is that as Baidu searches conducted in the States do not show the pro-democracy materials, US law has been violated.

"An internet search engine is a public acommodation, just like a hotel or restaurant," Preziosi argued.

The complainants are seeking total damages of $16m. However, there are no demands for Baidu to tweak its search engine policies.

"It would be futile to expect Baidu to change," said Preziosi. ®

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