Jack Ma summoned by Indian court over censorship allegations
China's Alibaba and its billionaire founder Jack Ma have both been summoned by an Indian court over allegations of censoring content and spreading fake news. The case comes nearly a month after 59 Chinese apps, including those from Alibaba, were banned by India for being prejudicial to "sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of [the] state and public order." Here's more.
As per court filings seen by Reuters, Pushpendra Singh Parmar, a former employee at Alibaba's UC Web unit in India, has alleged that the company censored content and spread misinformation. He has claimed that UC Web hid the content it deemed unfavorable to China on both of its products, UC Browser and UC News, and highlighted fake news "to cause social and political turmoil."
In the lawsuit, Parmar shared multiple clippings of fake news published on UC News, including a story titled "2,000-rupee notes to be banned from midnight today" and another saying "Just now: War broke out between India and Pakistan." He also provided a "sensitive words list" that was allegedly used by the company to block anti-China news from appearing on its products.
UC Web's blocklist included keywords like "India-China border" and "Sino-India war" in English and Hindi. According to the filing, "Any news related content to be published against China was automatically/manually rejected by an audit system evolved for this purpose."
Parmar added that when he tried objecting to what the company was doing, he was wrongfully fired from the organization. According to his LinkedIn profile, he joined as Associate Director at UC Web's Gurugram office in the second half of August 2016 and left the organization next year in October. And, now, he seeks $268,000 (Rs. 2 crore approximately) in damages from UC Web.
In light of this matter, Civil Judge Sonia Sheokand of a district court in Gurugram, where the lawsuit has been filed, issued summons, asking UC Web parent Alibaba, its co-founder Jack Ma, and about a dozen other company representatives/units to appear in court on July 29. The court has also sought written responses from the company in question and its executives within 30 days.
UC India denied commenting on the matter, telling Reuters that it is "unwavering in its commitment to the India market and the welfare of its local employees, and its policies are in compliance with local laws. [But] We are unable to comment on ongoing litigation". Similarly, Alibaba and Jack Ma have also not commented on Parmar's case or their position in the matter.
To recall, both the apps in question here (UC News and UC Browser) as well as 57 other Chinese apps were banned by the Indian Government over safety concerns. While they still remain banned, India has sought written answers from their owners on whether they censored content or acted on behalf of any foreign government to determine an unspecified "follow-up" action.