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U.S. Court: Chinese Search Engine's Censorship Is 'Free Speech'

Soulskill posted about 3 months ago | from the filtering-the-internet dept.

The Courts 284

jfruh writes: "You will probably not be surprised to learn that Chinese search giant Baidu censors a wide range of content, particularly political material deemed to be pro-democracy — and does so for users everywhere, not just in China. A group of activists filed suit against Baidu in New York for violating free speech laws, but the judge in the case declared (PDF) that, as a private entity in the United States, Baidu has the right to provide whatever kind of search results it wants, even for political reasons."

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284 comments

The Founding Fathers are crying.. (0)

Steve_Ussler (2941703) | about 3 months ago | (#46602221)

The Founding Fathers of the US are crying in their graves.

Re:The Founding Fathers are crying.. (5, Informative)

guruevi (827432) | about 3 months ago | (#46602255)

Why? The constitution only regulates the US government. It doesn't regulate neither the Chinese government nor private entities inside or outside the US.

14th Amendment (5, Informative)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about 3 months ago | (#46602385)

No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States

The US Constitution requlates state goverement since the passage of the 14th Amendment. A New York free speach law can not limit the speach of the owners and employees of Baidu. They are allowed to have bias.

Re:14th Amendment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602417)

You are obviously an American because your English spelling is terrible but you know your laws.

Re:14th Amendment (1, Funny)

bickerdyke (670000) | about 3 months ago | (#46602641)

And the biggest giveaway is that he doesn't question if the US constitution can be imposed onto someone outside the US borders.

what? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602869)

It can most certainly be applied to a business operating under the jurisdiction of the United States, the same way Google is expected to conform to the Chinese government's censorship requests to operate within their country. That's not American centrist thinking, that's just a logical way to assume businesses operate.

Re:14th Amendment (1)

misexistentialist (1537887) | about 3 months ago | (#46602561)

What if you bought a map and it intentionally omitted certain locations or distorted distances as part of some sort of agenda? Like a "map" a "search engine" should not be biased, though it would be OK if Baidu described its funciton as "Maosearch" or something

Re: 14th Amendment (5, Insightful)

therealkevinkretz (1585825) | about 3 months ago | (#46602599)

"Should"? Says who, you? If I want to launch a web site with a map proclaiming that Nova Scotia is now Kevinland, you think I should be forcibly prevented from doing so?

Re:14th Amendment (3, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 3 months ago | (#46602643)

If you bought such a map, providing you didn't muck it up, in most places you could seek a refund.

There are over two centuries of 1st Amendment jurisprudence that backs the notion that private interests have very wide latitudes in free expression.

Re:14th Amendment (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602655)

I am free to publish any kind of map that I want. You are free to buy it or not. I really don't want a US Dept of Map Approval saying if I can sell my map or not.

I can not force stores to sell it.
I can not force people to buy it.
I can not stop reviewers saying my maps suck.

But I am free to make it and sell it.

Re:14th Amendment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602949)

But that's the thing... Baidu is forced on people by the Chinese government. If it was strictly internal to China then that would be China's problem... but it's happening in our area, so it becomes our problem.

Re:14th Amendment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46603153)

Baidu is forced on people by the Chinese government.

Baidu is in no way forced on anyone within the legal jurisdiction of the United States Constitution.

Re:14th Amendment (4, Informative)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about 3 months ago | (#46603065)

So use a different search engine. Problem solved.

Obvious next step: "But what about people in China?"

Obvious next answer: "The US Constitution, and it's amendments, do not apply to citizens of another sovereign country."

Re:14th Amendment (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 3 months ago | (#46602587)

But even then state governments still manage to be different from private entities, which is what this Baidu ruling was about.

Baidu may be evil and its policies odious, but (since it isn't a government) it apparently has a right to be so.

Of course, we do also have rulings that things like anti-discrimination laws can be enforced upon businesses, so clearly some limitation of the businesses' free speech is allowed. I could see this ruling being overturned on appeal if the argument is made that allowing a business to censor is similar to allowing a business to discriminate.

there's a difference (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602973)

This is clearly not discriminatory, they provide the same service to everyone. Their is a difference between a service which cannot discriminate and product, which can be limited in scope, at least insomuch as the burden on a racism/discriminatory product is significantly higher, since it's far easier to delineate prejudiced behavior from a prejudiced product.

Re:14th Amendment (2)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 3 months ago | (#46602805)

That's true, but GGP only implied the founding fathers would be upset at this. They probably would be: censorship is almost always a bad idea. They wouldn't be saying "We wrote this constitution specifically to prevent this!!!" but they would be saying "That's bloody stupid." Possibly followed by some racially insensitive comments, but that's beside the point.

Re:The Founding Fathers are crying.. (1)

misexistentialist (1537887) | about 3 months ago | (#46602461)

This ruling is giving Constitutional protection to the Chinese government to defraud US users. Baidu claims to have the "mission of providing the best way for people to find what they're looking for online" which is blatant false advertising.

Re:The Founding Fathers are crying.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602479)

This ruling is giving Constitutional protection to the Chinese government to defraud US users. Baidu claims to have the "mission of providing the best way for people to find what they're looking for online" which is blatant false advertising.

So then bring up a false advertising suit. A freedom of speech suit has no legal basis.

Re:The Founding Fathers are crying.. (2)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 3 months ago | (#46602567)

As China is sovereign, they cannot be brought to bear in anyone's court.

If you seek to penalize companies or people that kowtow to same, that is the job of the president and Congress, not the courts, via diplomacy or military.

Our general policy for 50 years has been encouraging economic (and other) freedoms. Is it working? What are alternatives?

Re:The Founding Fathers are crying.. (1)

Altus (1034) | about 3 months ago | (#46602675)

Tthey could be barred from operating in this country. That isn't much but it is something.

Re:The Founding Fathers are crying.. (3, Informative)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 3 months ago | (#46603133)

Tthey could be barred from operating in this country. That isn't much but it is something.

So, your solution to Baidu censoring searches to to censor MY access to Baidu?

Re:The Founding Fathers are crying.. (2)

msauve (701917) | about 3 months ago | (#46602537)

"Best" is subjective. The claim is mere puffery - any suit for false advertising would be quickly dismissed.

Re:The Founding Fathers are crying.. (2)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 3 months ago | (#46602673)

You could, oh I dunno, not use this service.

Re:The Founding Fathers are crying.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602739)

No, this ruling is protecting the constitutional right of free speech. Now if there was a law that REQUIRED us to use it, that would be a free speech violation.

The National Enquirer prints any kind of stories they want. Most (all?) are total fabrications. Do you want the government to force them to stop?
If so, why not prohibit fiction books from being published? Even if 'based on a true story' there are probably inaccuracies. Should they be eliminated?
Do your really think Google searches are 100% unbiased and 100% accurate?

Why do people want the government to have complete control over everything? Why do you need them to protect you and everyone else?

Re:The Founding Fathers are crying.. (1)

Lazere (2809091) | about 3 months ago | (#46602983)

I wouldn't be so sure about the false advertising angle. Best is an opinion, that's why advertisers love it. If Pepsi says it's the "best cola around", but you think that Coke is obviously the best, Pepsi wouldn't be on the hook for false advertising. In the same way, they may not be the best for your purposes, but if I wanted to see what the web is like for a Chinese national, Baidu would be the best choice.

Re:The Founding Fathers are crying.. (3, Insightful)

grumpyman (849537) | about 3 months ago | (#46602523)

It's really not that... a private company does not have obligation to provide a unfiltered/non-curated/fair search engine. It's like Fox News website - that's the "best information" for you, they think.

You're Wrong (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602569)

I have seen no evidence in recent history that the US constitution regulates the US government.

Re:You're Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602897)

Citizens United [wikipedia.org]
Congress tried to overstep it's authority and regulate free speech.

Now before you argue corporation are not people, the first amendment has nothing in it that says it only applies to people.

Re:The Founding Fathers are crying.. (0)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 3 months ago | (#46602579)

Why? The constitution only regulates the US government. It doesn't regulate neither the Chinese government nor private entities inside or outside the US.

True, but I still think "US court determines censorship to be free speech" is a terrifying precedent to set, don't you?

Re:The Founding Fathers are crying.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602811)

So we could take Fox on as I'm sure they don't publish every article, so they are CENSORING (or curating whateves same thing)

Re:The Founding Fathers are crying.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46603139)

Censoring other people's speech is not speech. It has to do with property rights. Sending out messages of your own would be speech.

This is good for liberty (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46603115)

CanHasDIY, the quote you mention is a simplified headline. The real issue is that in the United States, companies are free to operate as they wish and provide whatever filtered information they wish to provide. So, this ruling is a victory for freedom, not the other way around. Would you really want the government decide what kinds of information is "correct" to withhold or not?

Re:The Founding Fathers are crying.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602695)

Funny, if this is true. Then why is Google being forced to alter it's search results by court orders? (e.g. anti-competitive, or favored sellers?)

Re:The Founding Fathers are crying.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602909)

In what country?

Re:The Founding Fathers are crying.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602285)

You're as dumb as the people who brought this case. The 1st Amendment applies to the US Government, and has never applied to private individuals.

Re:The Founding Fathers are crying.. (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602437)

You should actually read the first ten amendments sometime. The way they are written

Congress shall make no law...

When the founding fathers wrote this, they intended to for the states to be able to pass laws restricting freedom of speech and religion.

Re:The Founding Fathers are crying.. (1)

paiute (550198) | about 3 months ago | (#46602601)

You should actually read the first ten amendments sometime. The way they are written

Congress shall make no law...

When the founding fathers wrote this, they intended to for the states to be able to pass laws restricting freedom of speech and religion.

Nonsense. The states have constitutions of their own which guarantee the rights of their citizens. The Constitution of Massachusetts, for example, was adopted seven years before the US version and in many ways is even more protective of individual rights than the federal.

Re:The Founding Fathers are crying.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602729)

Nonsense. The states have constitutions of their own which guarantee the rights of their citizens. The Constitution of Massachusetts, for example, was adopted seven years before the US version and in many ways is even more protective of individual rights than the federal.

The constitution of Massachusetts has is completely irrelevant to any state that is not Massachusetts. If New York for instance wanted to pass a law delaying a state religion there was nothing in the Federal constitution to prevent this until the 14th amendment.

Re:The Founding Fathers are crying.. (5, Insightful)

schneidafunk (795759) | about 3 months ago | (#46602459)

The whole point of freedom of speech is to allow people you disagree with to say (or write) what they want. If the westboro church can protest soldier funerals, this ruling should be a no brainer. The search engine is writing the search results in a biased way but the judge has ruled that is free speech. Fine with me... now back to searching on google.

Re:The Founding Fathers are crying.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602493)

OK, by your logic, I will now require that anytime you personally make a pro democracy statement, you also make an equally valid anti democracy statement, because somehow your censorship of anti democracy opinions is infringing upon my right to free speech. I'm fairly certain this is exactly what the founding fathers wanted.

Seriously, how the fuck did this even make to a courtroom? I mean, the internet is full of retards with zero understanding of the what the first amendment does and does not apply to, but where did 8 of those retards find a lawyer who would take their case?

Re:The Founding Fathers are crying.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602503)

What implications are you trying to suggest? If I run a website, I'm not allowed to control or limit what comments and content other people put on it? If someone sends me some image or document supporting some cause I don't have interest in, should I be required to host it using my resources on my server and website? If I had a blog aggregating cool links to other sites, am I not allows to have any choice in what links or to have some sort of thematic connection between them? In the extreme, you would be talking about people not being allowed to remove graffiti, or venues not being allowed to remove an uncivil person just yelling over the top of others.

I don't see how there would be anything the founding fathers could be crying about (other than crying out loud, "Holy shit, what is this magical box of moving light and text that you are trying to talk about!")

Re:The Founding Fathers are crying.. (1)

Artraze (600366) | about 3 months ago | (#46602727)

> If I run a website, I'm not allowed to control or limit what comments and content other people put on it?

Of course you are, but only if you actually want to. If the government tells you to control it or else they'll drag you through audits/courts/etc until you do then that's a problem.

Granted, said government in this case is the Chinese, so I'm not surprised the case was thrown out but I can understand why it was brought.

Re:The Founding Fathers are crying.. (1)

aaron4801 (3007881) | about 3 months ago | (#46602547)

Freedom means different people/corporations are going to act differently. As long as it's not the government, or other monopoly-holding entity, they are free to do what they wish and the users are free to choose a better alternative. I would think the Founders would find it much more disturbing if this decision had gone the other way, and ruled that the State of NY basically had the final say in what one private entity can tell another private entity, inserting government approval in all communication. This is hardly different than the editorial pages of various media outlets having a particular slant, political or otherwise. Should the government get involved in making sure that no editorial board is stacked with too many supporters of one political party? That's not an America I'd like to see.

Re:The Founding Fathers are crying.. (1)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about 3 months ago | (#46603105)

I disagree. They are applauding that the law they wrote, is being interpreted exactly as they wrote it.

The First Amendment applies to government censorship, not private entity censorship.

Don't like the private censorship? Don't use that search engine. There's plenty of alternatives, one of which has become it's own verb, and another is trying to through terrible marketing.

What. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602229)

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

... yeah, what stoner thought there was a case here?

Re:What. (1, Insightful)

iserlohn (49556) | about 3 months ago | (#46602295)

Corporations have grown to a size that the power and influence it has over the public is comparable to government, if not surpassing it.

What good is the first amendment if private entities providing essential information services to the public can effective bypass the right for people to be heard?

Re:What. (5, Insightful)

operagost (62405) | about 3 months ago | (#46602355)

Because telling businesses what information they must provide to the public is the same as the old unconstitutional "fairness doctrine". Would you like to require that Rachel Maddow have Sean Hannity on her show every night to rebut her points? If a search engine is providing biased results, don't use it. Providing FALSE information could be a problem, as that would be libel.

I don't understand why I have to explain this on a forum that's populated by teens and adults. You can't use your rights to infringe on others' rights.

Re:What. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602713)

Because most of these teens and young adults are idiots with zero practical education and zero understanding of how our constitution works.

Re:What. (2)

msauve (701917) | about 3 months ago | (#46602357)

" the right for people to be heard?"

Where does this right you mention come from? There's a right to free speech/expression, but where does the right to force another person or business to carry your speech come from? If I can force you to carry my speech, can I also force you to STFU?

Re:What. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602619)

" the right for people to be heard?"

Where does this right you mention come from? There's a right to free speech/expression, but where does the right to force another person or business to carry your speech come from? If I can force you to carry my speech, can I also force you to STFU?

You can try, but there is this pesky bit in the constitution about the peopel to: "peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances" ... and since the concept of 'grievance' covers your behaviour you ultimately can't shut everybody up.

Re:What. (2)

gnick (1211984) | about 3 months ago | (#46602407)

I fail to see the relevance. No wait - I do. If they're enforcing free speech, that means they can't regulate what a person (or corporation) can say. Or selectively not say of their own volition. Does Freedom of Speech imply that we force people/corporations to say things that they choose not to? Regardless of their motivations? If I run a web-site and there's an article somewhere that says, "China censors nothing!", do I have to provide a link to it despite the fact that I personally think it's biased?

Re:What. (2)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | about 3 months ago | (#46602827)

What good is the first amendment if private entities providing essential information services to the public can effective bypass the right for people to be heard?

I fail to see the relevance. No wait - I do. If they're enforcing free speech, that means they can't regulate what a person (or corporation) can say. Or selectively not say of their own volition. Does Freedom of Speech imply that we force people/corporations to say things that they choose not to? Regardless of their motivations? If I run a web-site and there's an article somewhere that says, "China censors nothing!", do I have to provide a link to it despite the fact that I personally think it's biased?

I suspect that it depends on what your market share is, i.e. whether you are a "gatekeeper" or not. If you are just some two bit website that's one of a thousand others then the answer is that you can present whatever point of view you want and ignore others. If, however, you are Google, you handle 95% of all internet searches and you don't agree with, say the US Republican party's point of view so you start purging all links from your search results that represent a Republican point of view that you don't agree with then the game situations is a bit different and should be forced to be more neutral than you would like to be for the public good. I generally can't stand radical Republicans but I'll fight for their right to be heard, I don't have much use for communism either but I also think Commies have a right to be heard. This judge would seem to disagree with that which is IMHO quite amazing.

Re:What. (5, Insightful)

schwit1 (797399) | about 3 months ago | (#46602443)

Freedom of speech doesn't mean I have to give you my microphone.

Re:What. (1)

operagost (62405) | about 3 months ago | (#46602757)

Excellent one-sentence summary!

Re:What. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602589)

Corporations have grown to a size that the power and influence it has over the public is comparable to government, if not surpassing it.

No, you just don't know your history. Large corporations have long been able to compete with sovereign states in wielding economic, military, and political power. The American Revolution was rebellion against the East India Company nearly as much as it was against King George III.

The founding fathers were perfectly aware of the effects of megascale corporatism. Even the largest companies today have a fraction of the power the EIC did at it's peak. When Exxon starts deploying carrier battle groups around the world, then it will be comparable.

Re:What. (1)

iserlohn (49556) | about 3 months ago | (#46602705)

Maybe I should have added, in the US.

As big part of Independence was to reject corporations like EIC and the Hudson Bay Company which operated private armies sanctioned by the host nation (such as the British or the Dutch).

Re:What. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602749)

right for people to be heard?

Heard by whom? You aren't entitled to an audience. Just as you are free to speak, others are equally free to not listen.

Re:What. (1)

phlinn (819946) | about 3 months ago | (#46602833)

It allows other private entities to provide whatever information they see fit, because they are also protected by it.

Re:What. (1)

Warbothong (905464) | about 3 months ago | (#46602775)

... yeah, what stoner thought there was a case here?

Perhaps people who've seen how much grief Google are given over their results, which are nowhere near as biased as Baidu's?

http://www.google.com/search?q... [google.com]

Re:What. (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 3 months ago | (#46602953)

Awesome.

But please find one that involves a US court.

In other words... (1)

Noryungi (70322) | about 3 months ago | (#46602245)

Corporations are people. And people have a right to free speech, right? Which, in the case at hand, is a right to censor. Right?

Well, no. Corporations are legal fictions, and coporate personhood has gone too far.

Corporations are nothing more than a piece of paper, an act of incorporation, and should be treated as such.

Re:In other words... (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about 3 months ago | (#46602281)

but even if corporations had no individual right (which they should not), I still would support their freedom to choose to return whatever the hell they want in search engine. Even if that corporation had some racist or religious bias in results it wanted to return.

Re:In other words... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602323)

This has nothing to do with corporations as legal entities. It has everything to do with the fact that the 4th amendment only applies to government censorship. A non-government entity is not obligated to provide free speech.

For example: Slashdot would be on perfect legal ground to filter comments. They have no obligation to allow anyone to express their point of view using their privately owned infrastructure.

Re:In other words... (2)

Megol (3135005) | about 3 months ago | (#46602331)

What have your rant to do with this thread? A private entity can censor whatever they want in the US, this is no different than bringing a lawsuit against e.g. one of the anti-porn filter companies.

If one doesn't agree with the censorship Baido does one can simply _not_use_it_.

Re:In other words... (2)

Zamphatta (1760346) | about 3 months ago | (#46602359)

Actually, as idiotic as it sounds, corporations are persons in the U.S. legal system. - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C... [wikipedia.org]

Re:In other words... (2)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about 3 months ago | (#46602553)

corporations are groups of people working together for a common goal. Forming groups is a right under the 1st Amendment. or the right of the people peaceably to assemble The above right would be meaningless if the goverment could regulate the speach of groups. It is also impossible to regulate the speach of a group without regulating the speach of individuals. Corporations don't go to prison for violating censorship laws. The members of the group, employees, owners, and members go to jail. They are the ones who have their assets taken. Censorship of corporations is censorship of individuals.

Or in other words.... (2)

bigpat (158134) | about 3 months ago | (#46602521)

Corporations are nothing more than a piece of paper, an act of incorporation, and should be treated as such.

Agreed on that point, but that leads me to the opposite conclusion. Individuals pursue values through institutions. It is the underlying right of the individual employees, workers, owners and executives that give the association of people that collectively we call a corporation the same rights as the individuals that are in association with one another. Call it whatever you want, a corporation or a knitting group, it is the rights of the individual to associate and retain their individual liberty both acting individually or in concert which is what must be respected by law.

Re:In other words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602709)

I'm confused by this. Should corporations be forced to show everything? Even something they disagree with?

Or should only search engines be forced to return everything? In which case where is there freedom? You as a user are free to move to a different engine.

Sounds fair. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602267)

Private entities (Such as search engines) do have the right to post whatever results they care to post. I have the right to say whatever I want on my own posts, but no one has an obligation to repeat or link to them.

Heck, on the area I post most often, search engines don't even look at those sites.

As much as i hate censorship... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602305)

This is the right decision. Private companies should have the right to say whatever they want, assuming there is competition (not government mandated monolpolies or the like)

Re: As much as i hate censorship... (0)

jythie (914043) | about 3 months ago | (#46602565)

You touch on one of the reasons that this can be a sticky issue, competition. When taken pedantically the constitution only talks about what the state can and can not do, but philosophically it speaks to people having, well, the freedom to not have their speech crushed. Private individuals and corporations can amass sufficient influence that they are able to act as defacto states within the dejure state. Even when it is not a government mandated monopoly you can still get monopolies based off market realities, and at that point you end up with average citizens having rights curtailed by private but non-state entities because they are powerful enough to do so.

At which point the representative state gets involved since part of its job is to watch out for its citizens against other citizens. This is why we have various public accommodation laws, protecting weak groups from strong group's ability to mistreat them by virtue of their inability to do anything back.

In this case, I agree that the court was probably correct. Even within public accommodation, this particular service is hardly in a position to really curtail speech in the US. Now, if Google and Bing teamed up to start systematic censorship (ok, more then they do already) then the plaintiffs might have a case since right now, if Google wants to make something disappear, for the majority of the population is is gone, and thus they have a massive private ability to control what speech citizens have and consume.

Congratulations! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602363)

Dear Americans,

Congratulations for your great achievement of diluting the fundamental laws of freedom stated by your own founding fathers. Now you can officially put corporate policy above freedom, managers will be able to fire employees just because they dont like what they're saying, or maybe put them in the company's brig because they didn't quite accomplished their given tasks. After all, if you work on my lawn, I can do anything with you, 'cause those stupid freedom things don't apply in a privatized context.

And this is how the country we all used to look at as an model of democracy and true freedom managed to become the best friend of those who only live for the authoritarian way of thinking.

Re:Congratulations! (3, Insightful)

thaylin (555395) | about 3 months ago | (#46602577)

You are apparently not an American, as evidenced by your lack of understanding of our founding fathers and their writing of the constitution. Private individuals, or corporations, are not bound by the constitution, only the government is. If we were to bound private individuals it would run counter to everything they stood for. In other words, if you force private people/corporations to say what they dont wanna say then you dont have a democracy or a free people.

Re:Congratulations! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602585)

The social contract between FREEDOM, CORPORATION and AMERICANS/REPUBLICANS have been broken.

Re:Congratulations! (2)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about 3 months ago | (#46602681)

You seem to be suffering from a common misconception. "Freedom of speech" does not mean I can go into any newsroom and demand that my thoughts and views be broadcast to all local viewers/readers. As a private entity, they have always had the freedom of speech to choose what message they send, and being able to force my way in would mean that my freedom of speech would be trampling over theirs. I'd hate to be in a world where people with a troll mentality could use their freedoms to render whole segments of society unusable.

This situation, while reprehensible to the vast majority of us, is functionally no different, and in no way suggests that corporate policy is above freedom. After all, at least in the US, users are free to use another service that does not send the message Baidu is sending, meaning that Baidu has no hold over them. In situations where there is a hold, such as an employee/employer relationship, there are additional laws and regulations protecting both sides, and we ever had some discussions over related topics a few days back after Mozilla appointed its new CEO who has some controversial private views.

Wonder what Google/Bing with do with this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602387)

Seems counter to some of the issues they've faced being taken to task for the contents of their search results... guess this means they have free reign to present whatever they like too?

What about Google? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602415)

Why are there so many law suits against Google for similar reasons?

Re:What about Google? (1)

jythie (914043) | about 3 months ago | (#46602591)

So far the groups who are censored by Google lack the political backing or have too much stigma associated with them already. They lack enough public support to bring such suits seriously. Google would have to start censoring someone who can actually fight back for this to start happening.

So you can report what you want under free speech (2)

Chrisq (894406) | about 3 months ago | (#46602419)

... The judge was also reported to say "now that's decided I'm going to pick up a couple of strippers who will whip me while i wear their underwear"

Re:So you can report what you want under free spee (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602531)

No, that's not free speech. Publishing that statement would be libel, assuming it weren't true.

libel: a published false statement that is damaging to a person's reputation; a written defamation.

Re:So you can report what you want under free spee (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602607)

No, that's not free speech. Publishing that statement would be libel, assuming it weren't true.

libel: a published false statement that is damaging to a person's reputation; a written defamation.

No that is free speech. The government cannot bring up criminal charges against you. The judge, as a private citizen, can bring a civil suit against you.

In other works you are free to say it but your are not free from the consequences of your speech.

Re:So you can report what you want under free spee (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46603033)

Am I free to not say and free from the consequences of not saying?

Re:So you can report what you want under free spee (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602543)

Different issue.

Now you're into Slander and Libel territory, and that's a different set of laws.

Slippery Slope.. or is it? (5, Informative)

kheldan (1460303) | about 3 months ago | (#46602431)

Our knee-jerk reaction to this here in the U.S. is predictable: "Oh shit, there goes the 1st Amendment!".
Not so simple, though: Baidu is a private company here in the U.S., even if it's blindingly obvious it's 100% driven by the Chinese government/Chinese communist party (same thing, really) and as such they can provide whatever search results they want. Same would go for Google, or Yahoo, or Bing, or whoever -- the caveat being that if, say, Google decided to start censoring search results to the extent Baidu does, then Google would be finished as the de-facto search engine here in the U.S. However: Nobody is forcing you to use Google, Yahoo, Bing, Baidu, or any other search engine here in the U.S. Even if you're a Chinese National living here in the U.S., unless the Chinese communist party has someone standing there with a gun to your head, you're free to NOT use Baidu, just like you're free to NOT use Google, Yahoo, Bing, or any other search engine, too. Don't bring me your "We don't REALLY have a choice" crap, either, because you do, even if you don't like the choices you have. Also, finally, someone else could always start up their own search-engine company if they think there's a niche to fill, and they could make a gigantic point of how they censor none of the results -- and they might even unseat everyone else in the process.

Re:Slippery Slope.. or is it? (1)

jythie (914043) | about 3 months ago | (#46602699)

In the case of Google, Yahoo, and Bing at least, while no one is 'forcing' you to use them, the fact they are so heavily used does actually matter. If the three of them decide together that your speech should be censored, it effectively disappears for the vast majority of readers. You can rant and rave all you like and be picked up by alternative sites, but they can control how much audience you have and the bulk of that audience probably would not even be aware of what they are missing.

So it is not just about what medium one uses to speak, but how much control that medium has over who can listen. The difference in getting your message out between small private boards and word of mouth vs accessible on Google is massive. Just talk to anyone trying to do marketing.... 'you can only advertise your product on niche boards and search engines a tiny number of people use, but the competition has access to everyone looking for the topic on Google', which company do you think will survive and which will go out of business? Same with ideas.

In a very real way, we don't have a choice, since a critical element is what choice everyone else makes, and we do not have control over them. If your audience is all using Google, then Google is your only choice. Using some niche engine or building your own does not accomplish your goals and is little better then 'the only thing on the menu is pasta. Well I will eat my napkin instead!'. In a pure way yes, there was a choice, but practically speaking there was effectively no choice and the only benefit from choosing the napkin was the hollow victor of 'having chosen', and the person is still hungry.

Re:Slippery Slope.. or is it? (1)

operagost (62405) | about 3 months ago | (#46602787)

What you are talking about is addressed in anti-trust laws that are over a century old.

Re:Slippery Slope.. or is it? (1)

bws111 (1216812) | about 3 months ago | (#46603013)

Wong, wrong, wrong. You have a right to not be punished by the government for saying something. You do not have, and have never had, the 'right to get your message out'. The very idea is absurd.

This is good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602455)

To decide otherwise would be like requiring BET to run "Leave it to Beaver".

Bloody hell. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46602515)

lol , that is another major nail in coffin for the US system first 2 that come to mind being,
  1) companies are considered people(except of course, noone goes to jail when company 'accidentally kills a bunch of people),
  2) no limits on campaign donations

now 3) Time Warner, GOOGLE, Apple, NBC, whoever can freely slant the views in the favor of the owners.

So the majority of the people, can be legally led like sheep... We need a law at the very least requiring 'news' agencies to report facts and all sides equally or something... Equal air-time for all political candidates with > 1% of the vote?

 

Re:Bloody hell. (1)

thaylin (555395) | about 3 months ago | (#46602669)

that is how freedom of speech has always worked here in the US.. Your "requirement" would actually be the first nail in the coffin of the US system, as it would dilute free speech.

the real America (-1, Offtopic)

Max_W (812974) | about 3 months ago | (#46602645)

I've been in China and I've been in the USA.

There are places in San Francisco, even in central part of the city, where it is just scary to walk. The same about the LA and NYC.

Certainly the USA is a great country with immensely interesting culture, still there are serious social, racial, economical problems there, perhaps, even more acute than in China.

At least, I do not remember being scared just to walk in a city in China.

America has got a very efficient advertising and propaganda machine, probably, this is what makes the difference.

Re:the real America (1)

operagost (62405) | about 3 months ago | (#46602815)

This has nothing to do with the topic whatsoever. How about this: people aren't forced to live in Foxconn dormitories in the USA, such that the only way out is to commit suicide by jumping out the window. Are we winning yet?

Re:the real America (1)

Max_W (812974) | about 3 months ago | (#46603037)

Yes, I agree there are very serious social problems in China. But the same is valid for the USA too.

I saw areas in the US cities where people are just hanging en mass on the streets days long, obviously unemployed. There are also a lot of homeless people, incredibly many.

Certainly, there are well-to-do communities, even gated communities. But it is not like the USA has nothing else to do to improve inside its own country and just has to concentrate on China and the other bad apples.

Perhaps, it shall improve the world via itself? By an example?

Do not let government define "free speech" (3, Insightful)

hessian (467078) | about 3 months ago | (#46602649)

This ruling makes sense when you consider the alternative:

Government would have to police each search engine to make sure it was permitting full free speech.

Then, the potential for abuse is huge. Government could simply drop something -- like, say, far-right information -- off the list and allow it to be censored while claiming it was legally not censorship.

Government could also force search engines to incorporate other information that is favored by government, and penalize them if that information didn't make it high in the rankings.

We don't want government in the business of determining what "free speech" is in legal terms.

well... (1)

Connie_Lingus (317691) | about 3 months ago | (#46602759)

hasn't the tech party line always been "governments can't censor us, the internet sees that as damage and routes around it" or something like that?

it sure looks like governments are doing a pretty good jobs of destroying that meme, be it Turkey or China...or even perhaps the NSA/US.

and of course i *know* vpns and proxies can be set up...i wonder how many typical chinese citizens know how to set those up tho.

Re:well... (1)

thaylin (555395) | about 3 months ago | (#46602907)

You dont need many that know how to set them up, just some that know how to make it easy to make the average citizen be capable of connecting to them. Each citizen does not need their own VPN server.

Re:well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46603083)

judging by the amount of vpn spam advertising/popups i regularly see on any chinese computer, you would have to say anyone who wants to bother can easily do it.

Highlight quotes from the judgment (1)

The Cornishman (592143) | about 3 months ago | (#46602981)

I recommend everyone to read J. Furman's judgment: it's crystal clear, and a pleasure to understand.

The argument establishes that what Baidu is engaged in is speech, not advertising or anything, I think these two quotes (or quotes of quotes) sum everything up beautifully:

'Since all speech inherently involves choices of what to say and what to leave unsaid,'" the Court explained, "one important manifestation of the principle of free speech is that one who chooses to speak may also decide 'what not to say.'"

As the Supreme Court has explained, "[t]he First Amendment does not guarantee that . . . concepts virtually sacred to our Nation as a whole . . . will go unquestioned in the marketplace of ideas."

Not a monopoly, not a problem (1)

FuzzNugget (2840687) | about 3 months ago | (#46603011)

There's nothing wrong with this decision. In fact, it's the right decision. As long as there is healthy competition, there's no reason any arm of government should be able to force a business to operate a certain way, outside of actions or inactions that are ostensibly illegal or abusive.

It's not like there aren't a thousand other capable search engines you can use instead.

This is good for liberty (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46603141)

The real issue is that in the United States, companies are free to operate as they wish and provide whatever filtered information they wish to provide. So, this ruling is a victory for freedom, not the other way around. Would you really want the government to decide what kinds of information are "correct" to withhold or not?

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