China-based web company Baidu wins right to censor search results

American laws protect Chinese firm

China-based web services company Baidu has won the right to exclude pro-democracy results from its US search engine results following a court ruling.

The lawsuit, which was led by pro-democracy activists based in New York, complained that Baidu illegally suppressed speech by excluding their pro-democracy works from its search engine results accessed both in China and New York.

They accused Baidu of creating algorithms at China's request, seeking $16 million (£9.6 million, AU$17.28 million) in damages for violations of their civil rights.

However, the judge ruled that Baidu had the right to exclude the results from its search engine results from the search engine protected free speech and were within the US Constitution, dismissing the three-year old case.

Editorial judgement

In his ruling, judge Jesse Furman likened the missing results to "editorial judgement". The American First Amendment protects Baidu's right to advocate systems of government other than democracy, he added.

"To allow the 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," Furman said. "Each person should decide for himself or herself the ideas and beliefs deserving of expression, consideration, and adherence."

A lawyer representing the group said that they would be appealing the decision, impressing that the court was allowing the "repression of free speech in the name of free speech".