Baidu wins dismissal of U.S. lawsuit claiming censorship

NEW YORK, March 27 Thu Mar 27, 2014 2:47pm EDT

NEW YORK, March 27 (Reuters) - Baidu Inc, the Chinese Internet company, on Thursday won the dismissal of a U.S. lawsuit by pro-democracy activists who complained that Baidu illegally suppressed their political speech from China's most widely used Internet search engine.

Eight New York writers and video producers had accused Baidu of calibrating its search engine to block users in the United States from viewing articles, videos and other information advocating greater democracy in China. They sought $16 million in damages.

U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan, however, concluded that the results produced by Baidu's search engine constituted protected free speech under the U.S. Constitution.

"The First Amendment protects Baidu's right to advocate for systems of government other than democracy (in China or elsewhere) just as surely as it protects plaintiffs' rights to advocate for democracy," Furman wrote.

Stephen Preziosi, a lawyer for the activists, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Baidu and its lawyer did not immediately respond to similar requests.

The case is Zhang et al v. Baidu.com et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 11-03388. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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