[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit brought by eight New Yorkers claiming that Chinese search engineBaidu’s [website, in Chinese] algorithms illegally block political speech. The plaintiffs, writers and video producers, claimed [Reuters report] that the search engine prevents users in the US from viewing their materials advocating greater democracy in China, in violation of their First Amendment free speech rights and claimed $16 million in damages. District Judge Jesse Furman determined instead that the processes used by Baidu are protected by the First Amendment, prompting criticism by plaintiffs’ lawyers who reportedly stated [IBT report] that court created a legal paradox. Furman compared Baidu’s filtering to the “editorial judgment” of a newspaper editor and said that Baidu has equal rights to promote systems of government other than democracy just as the plaintiffs have the right to promote democracy. Baidu is the largest search engine in China since Google stopped operating there, and it has the fifth-most web traffic of any website on the planet.
Government Internet censorship has been an area of global concern for many years, in January 2013 the Canadian human rights group Citizen Lab issued [JURIST report] a report revealing that many nations use American technology to monitor and censor web content and traffic within the countries. The Chinese government is considered one of the heaviest censors of Internet activity and has repeatedly defended [JURIST report] its position on the matter. In March 2010 Google ceased [JURIST report] complying with Chinese censorship requirements and subsequently pulled its services from the country. In 2007 Google urged [JURIST report] US government bodies, including the Departments of State and Commerce to treat internet censorship as a barrier to trade as it restricts the free flow of information. In 2006 the US House of Representatives admonished [JURIST report] several Internet companies, including Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google for complying with China’s harsh censorship laws.