Baidu sues comic over on-line joke about CEO

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Baidu CEO: Immigrants welcome

China’s largest web search engine is suing a comic after he mocked the corporate and its CEO on social media.

The comic, who posts beneath a pseudonym, mentioned that Baidu (BIDU) is claiming that he defamed Robin Li, its founder and chief govt, and broken the corporate’s fame and public picture.

In a press release to CNN on Thursday, Baidu confirmed the lawsuit however declined to remark additional.

The comic — who requested to be recognized solely by his final identify, Solar, due to the sensitivity of the matter — instructed CNN he was shocked to see “an organization of this dimension sue a person over a joke.”

On Wednesday, he posted a number of pages of Baidu’s authorized grievance on his verified account on Weibo (WB), China’s equal of Twitter (TWTR). The paperwork seem to indicate that the corporate is demanding greater than 5 million yuan ($732,000) in damages and a public apology.

Dig at search outcomes

Solar, who goes by the person identify “Monologue at 7:30,” posted the offending joke in Could, when a rumor about Li’s private life was circulating on-line. Baidu vehemently denied the rumor and reported it to Chinese language authorities.

Solar’s publish referenced the rumor and Baidu’s response, including a punchline that many Chinese language web customers took as a dig on the firm’s search outcomes. Baidu has been criticized lately for prominently putting hyperlinks paid for by advertisers in search outcomes, a few of which have taken customers to fraudulent companies.

In a single high-profile case in 2016, a young cancer patient died after his parents sought an experimental treatment for him at a hospital in Beijing primarily based on Baidu search outcomes. The case prompted outrage on-line, and China’s our on-line world regulator ordered the corporate to vary the best way it shows outcomes. Baidu mentioned after the outcry that it had eliminated round 126 million promotional messages from its web site.

01 Robin Li FILE RESTRICTED
Baidu CEO Robin Li

Authorities’s tightening grip

Baidu’s lawsuit in opposition to Solar comes at a time when China’s ruling Communist Occasion continues to tighten its grip on the nation’s our on-line world, which is already one of many world’s most regulated due to a complicated nationwide firewall and a military of state and company censors.

Underneath President Xi Jinping’s order to “clear” the web, the authorities are hardening their stance towards on-line humor and satire, which are sometimes used as a manner of creating veiled criticisms of the federal government.

Earlier this 12 months, the federal government handed a legislation making it a criminal offense to slander Communist martyrs. Officers have shut down the social media accounts of offenders and ordered them to apologize and pay fines.

In April, the federal government shut down an internet joke-sharing platform, Neihan Duanzi, which had greater than 200 million customers. Authorities mentioned it contained vulgar content material.

The federal government launched a platform this week geared toward “alerting the general public about on-line rumors and refuting slanders,” in accordance with Xinhua, the official information company.

01 Baidu Illustration RESTRICTED
Baidu is the dominant web search engine in China.

‘Kill a rooster to scare the monkeys’

Solar’s authorized plight has attracted big consideration throughout the Chinese language web. The variety of Weibo accounts following him have skyrocketed from round 10,000 earlier this week to greater than 27,000. A lot of the feedback beneath his publish in regards to the lawsuit, which has been pinned to the highest of his Weibo web page, have been supportive.

Tony Chou, a Chinese language comic who has labored carefully with Solar, mentioned their small however close-knit circle is anxious in regards to the case due to its doubtlessly chilling impact.

“Baidu could need to ‘kill a rooster to scare the monkeys,’ simply when a younger technology of comedians begin to evolve from the outdated mannequin of ‘steer clear of the fact’ to turning into extra keen to speak about social points,” he instructed CNN.

Chou recurrently performs stand-up gigs in bars and golf equipment in Beijing, and produces his personal comedy movies. Solar has written for Chou for a few of his reveals.

Solar mentioned he’s decided to maintain writing jokes the best way he at all times has and combat his authorized battle to the tip.

“I’ve at all times identified how troublesome it’s to create satire in our surroundings, however I did not understand the state of affairs had turn into so unhealthy,” he mentioned on Weibo. “If we’re now not allowed to even make enjoyable of Baidu, I do not know what is going to occur subsequent.”

“I can not afford to lose this case.”

— Yong Xiong in Beijing contributed reporting to this text.

CNNMoney (Beijing) First printed August 30, 2018: 10:14 AM ET



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