back to article Eight New Yorkers sue Baidu for $16m

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 …


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  1. Blarkon
    Thumb Down

    What typically American behavior

    What a typical American reaction to something foreign.

    1. kain preacher


      So I guess there is no chance that these could be ex pat from China suing .

    2. Josir

      Those are the real good american behavior

      I'm not american, I deplore great part of foreign policy of US Govt. but I really admire the freedom and liberty values that the american society has.

      Thanks to all north americans that share those values with the rest of the world !

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So why don't they just use Google?

    Google Maps, for example. You know, so they can see that they're NOT IN CHINA.

    Do Baidu even have a physical presence in New York state? Or even the USA?

    1. jonathanb Silver badge

      Sort of

      They are listed on Nasdaq and file accounts with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company itself is registered in the Cayman Islands for tax purposes and operates in China.

      I assume they can actually understand the Chinese squiggles on, but what loss have they suffered from not being able to find any of those squiggles pertaining to Tienanmen square on that particular website. There is nothing about it on my website either, am I going to be sued next?

  3. Katie Saucey

    How do you say "frivolous"in Chinese?

    Oh yeah it's 轻浮. Now how about "east coast liberal media whores"? 东海岸妓女自由媒体

  4. amanfromearth

    Poor things..

    Ya gotta feel sorry for these Americans who didn't think to use Google for their search instead..

  5. James Hughes 1

    How can they sue

    A company that isn't even based in the USA?

  6. TeeCee Gold badge

    "It would be futile to expect Baidu to change,"

    Is that more or less futile than getting a US court to order 'em to cough up $16m + costs?

    Hope they've got deep pockets.

    Personally I reckon this falls into the category of; "I defend your right to say what you like. I also defend everyone else's right not to listen to it.". I'll leave the picky debate over whether the Chinese Government should or should not have the right to speak on behalf of its citizens in this matter to others.

  7. Tony Barnes

    I'm confused

    Do people outside of China use Baidu? If not, I'm not sure what grounds breaching an American bit of paper has to do with a Chinese country operating within its own borders..??

    Just had a quick look at bidu for the first time, I get the feeling they may have copy / pasted Google to an extreme degree!!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    $o$ <- smiley of a guy with dollar signs in the eyes, like in cartoons

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

    In other words, they don't give a monkey's about freedom of speech, they're only in for the money, despite what they say to make them look like they are good concerned citizen.

    Also, sueing the chinese gov? I don't recall any country allowing to sue any gov from any other country, so good luck with that.

  9. M Gale

    Letters and digits.

    Does this mean that Sarah Bee can get sued for laying the smack-down on commentards, because El Reg's pages can be read within the US?

    I was always under the assumption that while web pages may be able to be read by the public, the servers are very much someone else's private property. They'd have more chance if the server was in the US under a .gov domain.

  10. Graham Marsden


    ... of derisive laughter, Bruce!

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

    So, typical Yank behaviour thinking that *their* laws apply to the whole world!

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Big Brother

      To the whole world except to the USA.

      If AIPAC had a search service, would anyone sue it?

  11. disgruntled yank

    Lawyers Without Borders!

    A fellow I used to know worked for the US State Department. Congress had passed a law to the effect that US citizens jailed abroad were entitled to visits by US consular staff at some interval. One of the citizens he had to visit should probably have been doing time stateside for offenses committed there, but had managed to use family influence to avoid it. Their influence did not extend to call it Ruritania, and there he languished. When my acquaintance visited, the dialogues ran roughly thus:

    prisoner: I'm innocent!

    official: Well, the videotape looks very convincing.

    prisoner: They violated my constitutional rights!

    official: Not according to the Ruritanian constitution.

    How is it better that the the US Constitution should govern Chinese behavior than that British libel law should allow one foreign national to sue another in British courts?

  12. tas

    Baidu has a legally targetable US presence

    I wondered how it was possible that a foreign firm could be sued by domestic plaintiffs.

    I noted that Baidu Inc is actually a component of the US NASDAQ-100 equity share index (BIDU) since Dec 2007. It has achieved this, like other companies, by creating American Depositary Shares (ADS) which link US currency investments back to foreign share holdings via certificates held by custodian banks. But, this would not be enough to be a legal target.

    However, according to the SEC filing documents for the ADS, this is a quote from its 'History and Development of the Company': "In November 2010, we established our subsidiary Baidu USA LLC, or Baidu U.S., a research and development facility controlled by Baidu Japan Inc. Baidu U.S. is currently in its start-up stage".

    This may explain why despite the index listing since Dec 2007 and public offering since 2005, the plaintiffs have only started proceedings recently. However, I have NO idea how it is possible to sue a government in a domestic court ...

    I think in a second life I'm coming back as a US corporate lawyer. These guys must be in constant work and ridiculously paid!

  13. Anonymous Coward

    WTF first amendment?

    The first amendment, as far as I know, says that the US government will make no law restricting free speech. In order to prove this case, don't they have to argue not just that Baidu is acting as an arm of the Chinese government, but /also/ that the Chinese government is acting as an arm of the US government? I really don't think that one's going to fly in court.

    1. Oninoshiko

      The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.


      they could just argue that baidu is directly acting as an arm of the US government, but without a connection to the US government this 1st amendment is not being violated. I'm guessing these yahoos haven't talked to a real lawyer.

    2. Malcolm Boura 2


      But the US government does censor, it does prevent free speech, and it is demonstrably causing harm. Consider the Janet Jackson nipple farce, just one example of a widepsread malaise. If from cradle to giving birth girls are taught that breasts are terrible to look at and that a glimpse of one will bring civilisation to end, don't be surprised if breast feeding rates are appalling.

    3. mhenriday

      Actually, Anonymous Coward,

      the First Amendment to the US Constitution is even more specific - it states that «Congress shall make no law [...] abridging the freedom of speech ...». So the plaintiffs should have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that 1) Baidu had in some way inherited the powers and responsibilities of the US Congress (which I presume would itself be unconstitutional, as the Congress cannot, under the Constitution, abdicate from its powers and responsibilities (as it in fact has frequently done, by allowing the Executive to make war without the Congress declaring war)) and 2) that Baidu had, in its capacity of inheritor of the powers and responsibility of the Congress, indeed made such a law. Further, as has been pointed out in these columns, the plaintiffs would have to demonstrate that they were negatively impacted by Baidu's «law», i e, that their right to free speech, etc, had been abridged by lack of certain search options on Baidu (it is difficult to see how that particular lack negatively impacts freedom of speech in particular) and moreover, that no simple relief (such as using a different search engine) was available. To my mind, the plaintiffs are here engaging in what is called «malicious prosecution», i e, taking a defendant to court in a case obviously without merit, simply in order to harass him or her. Thus they could be leaving themselves liable to a counter-suit on the part of Baidu....

      But this is, indeed, an interesting case - if a court should find that a private entity like Baidu can inherit the powers and responsibilities (within the United States, of course) of the US Congress, I might be tempted to attempt to determine whether, for example, the Reg has done so and if, by not allowing the comment function on certain of Andrew Orlowski's posts, this excellent rag has been guilty of abridging my freedom of speech....


  14. regest

    Bogus Freeloaders

    It's totally about the attorneys...No one was damaged...Many other search options...It's about getting something for nothing and the lawyers are right in front... Get a Job! Get a life!

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Get them off the Nasdaq

    They are perpetuators of a form of censorship that is unconstitutional in the US and should not be allowed on the Nasdaq.

    If previous commenters are correct, there is also an issue about the ownership/founding of the company, is it Japanese or Chinese? Funny-business like that is another reason to get them off the Nasdaq.

    1. Chimp

      Your old mother

      Is it really unconstitutional in the US for a private company to censor content? I doubt that, very much.

      Anyway, buddy, Chinese or Japanese... all the same to you, right?

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Title not available, please try later.

    1) Wouldn't they have at least as strong a case against Rupert Murdoch?

    2) Finally I get to use the "unhappy bald Chinaman wearing shades" icon.

  17. NoneSuch Silver badge

    Might makes Right

    They are pulling UK hackers out of Blighty to face trail in the US

    They are violating Pakistani airspace to knock off Osama

    They quote the DMCA in taking down the PirateBay in Sweden

    They hold prisoners without charge or right to counsel in unnamed foreign countries

    They spy on their own citizens and the world at large in the name of Freedom

    They have the most litigious society on the planet...

    ...and this story surprises you?

    1. DavidD


      ..FUCK YEAH!!!

      Fail, because it is full of it!

    2. disgruntled yank


      As somebody explains in _Scoop_, other nations might use Force, but Britain uses Might. I guess we've inherited the franchise.

      Uncle Same could say a collective "Peccavi", but it wouldn't have quite the same ring as when Napier said it.

  18. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Put it on the tab

    We're informed that Chinese banks (i.e. China) holds over $1T of american IOU's. Maybe these people should just get the chinese to knock their claimed $16M off the debt - then they could ask the american govt (nicely, of course) for their money.

    Good luck with that, it's about as sensible as trying to sue.

  19. John Savard

    To Be Applauded

    One wonders what the American courts will do with this lawsuit, but if it is successful, it will at least make it inconvenient for Baidu to do business outside of China. Why shouldn't aiding and abetting the censorship policies of a dictatorship come with a price tag?

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Seeking funds for a new island!

    Can we make an island to send these people to? Maybe I can sue some wealthy company or person to make/fund this island!.. oh wait.... uh.... darn.... must stop thinking American.

    Have "we" Americans not realized how stupid _most_ of our lawsuits are? Countries outside the U.S. have news articles on how stupid and greedy we, as a society, are! Is it not bad enough that we go around shooting people in other countries, make "laws" to declare war over "virtual" computer attacks, but do we also have to tattoo stupid on our foreheads while we eat magic seeds in hopes of a money tree to growing out our arses?

    Seriously... sue to make the world a better place not to get rich overnight. The lawyer should know better than saying "It would be futile to expect Baidu to change".

    The coat icon, mines the white funny farm jacket.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Put Baidu.into google translator

    If you are having problems searching for something with a CIA controlled search engine try Baidu.

    If you can't read chinese just put the URL into Google translator.and the squiggle lines will turn into English.You would be surprised at what Baidu will turn up compared to Google sometimes.

    1. Steven Roper

      Wait... what?

      "If you can't read chinese just put the URL into Google translator.and the squiggle lines will turn into English.You would be surprised at what Baidu will turn up compared to Google sometimes."

      Let me get this straight: You can find something from Baidu that has been censored by Google by putting it into a Google service (in the certain knowledge that said service won't, you know, mess up the translation for any particular reason)? Yeah, that'll work. Genius.

  22. Jeff 11

    Frivolous, easily defeated

    Baidu can spider and aggregate what it wants, just as Google can. Whether they choose to reject pages either by algorithm or by hand, I'm 99.999% certain that it's perfectly legal for the owners of a private database, in all western jurisdictions, to do this. And if I'm wrong, they would have to prove that this 'offence' happened on US soil, which would be an impossible proposition. I imagine the lawyers are now partying at their clients' vast expense.

  23. Big Al

    Danger: falling similes

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

    But if you don't like a hotel or restaurant, you just choose to go to a different one.

    Activists suing Baidu because the latter's searches don't show their work is like the Beef Producers' Association suing a vegetarian restaurant over their menu choices.

  24. Demosthenese


    You ask baidu a question. Baidu answers it - maybe incorrectly, or incompletely. How does this affect your, or anyone else's, free speech?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Less than that, even!

      You're requesting records matching a certain search pattern. And it returns them. As far as the database contents go, there IS no censorship.

      Given that they can't legitimately even get TO that data through the Great Firewall of China, there's not even a reasonable expectation that they WOULD be able to hold these results in order to return them.

      Fail, because this case just has to.

  25. Adam White

    An internet search engine is a public acommodation

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

    Can't wait to see him argue this in front of a judge. It's a violation of free expression if a web page doesn't contain the information we want it to? Wouldn't requiring a web page to contain the information we want it to be the violation? Baidu is the one doing the expressing after all, the NY residents are merely being expressed at.

  26. mhenriday

    And given that the US enjoys universal jurisdiction,

    these eight New York residents will surely win their case. After all, no relief is available, given that there exist no search engines other than Baidu available to residents in New York, with which they can perform their web searches....


  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    An internet search engine is a public acommodation, just like a hotel or restaurant

    So I can sue a search engine because it does not carry some information I believe it should.

    A restaurant locally to me doesn't serve pork chops. I can sue them, right?

  28. Josir

    Great Idea

    It's really a great idea!

    Why Google can be sued in China, Europe, etc and Baidu can't?

    They will taste their own poison.

    Any method used to promote Freedom of Speach discussion is valid.

    If, in the future, they won the case, they can use the money to relief chinese coal workers, chinese freedom activists, greenpeace, etc ... the list is immense.

  29. tommydokc

    ah the idiocy

    of my fellow american assholes. shameful and disgraceful. apparently a lot more money than sense, but then I fully suspect that only a 5 cent american nickel would cover that in this case.

  30. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    Rodent smell detected

    "The plaintiffs, described in the complaint as pro-democracy activists"


    "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"

    I see. That must be some new kind of activism: "please carry on doing whatever I 'fight' against, as long as you give me money."

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