Feeds

Judge rules Baidu political censorship was an editorial right

Search engine results get freedom of speech protection in the US

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Chinese search giant Baidu has evaded a lawsuit launched in the US by a pro-democracy group who claimed that the search engine was illegally suppressing political speech.

The New York residents, who advocate for greater democracy in China, said that Baidu was unlawfully blocking US articles and information about the democracy movement in China and related topics. The claimed that Baidu had implemented algorithms on behalf of the Chinese government to block its users from seeing these political topics.

The plaintiffs were looking for $16m in damages for violations of their civil rights.

But the district court judge ruled that the First Amendment protected search results as free speech and dismissed the case.

"Allowing plaintiffs to sue Baidu for what are in essence editorial judgements about which political ideas to promote would run afoul of the First Amendment," Judge Jesse Furman wrote in his ruling, pointing out that users dissatisfied with Baidu's search results did have the option to search using another engine like Google or Bing.

Furman also said that there was a strong argument to be made that the First Amendment protected any search results from "most, if not all" types of civil liabilities or government regulations.

"The central purpose of a search engine is to retrieve relevant information from the vast universe of data on the Internet and to organise it in a way that would be most helpful to the searcher. In doing so, search engines inevitably make editorial judgments about what information (or kinds of information) to include in the results and how and where to display that information," the judge wrote.

"To allow plaintiffs' suit to proceed, let alone to hold Baidu liable for its editorial judgments, would contravene the principle upon which our political system and cultural life rest: That each person should decide for himself or herself the ideas and beliefs deserving of expression, consideration and adherence."

Stephen Preziosi, the lawyer for the plaintiffs, said that they planned to appeal the ruling.

"The court has laid out a perfect paradox: That it will allow the suppression of free speech, in the name of free speech," he told Reuters. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Adam Afriyie MP: Smart meters are NOT so smart
Mega-costly gas 'n' 'leccy totting-up tech not worth it - Tory MP
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.