Quinn scores victory for China's Baidu in case over blocked search engine results

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan has successfully defended Chinese internet company Baidu in a high profile case brought against it by a group of Chinese political activists.

The eight dissidents, who are PRC citizens but reside in New York, claimed that the search engine – akin to Google and Yahoo – violated their civil rights by blocking from its search results their pro-democracy articles and recordings.

The complaint was filed in the New York in 2011 with the dissidents claiming $16m in damages. They accused Baidu of illegally conspiring to prevent US internet users from accessing their work at the behest of China.

The case raised the issue of whether free speech rights – which include the right to remain silent or not publish information – apply to results produced by Internet search engines.

In a landmark judgment yesterday, Judge Jesse Furman ruled that the First Amendment protected Baidu’s – and therefore other search engines’ – rights to “exercise editorial control” over the order and content of the search results they return.

Media and technology disputes partner Carey Ramos was the lead attorney at Quinn Emanuel on the case. He was previously based in New York but moved to Hong Kong in October last year to help launch the firm’s Hong Kong office alongside former Kim & Chang senior arbitration lawyer John Rhie.

Acting for the Chinese dissidents was New York appellate lawyer Stephen Preziosi.

Commenting on the decision, Ramos said: “This case is a ringing endorsement of the core values at the heart of the First Amendment.

“It shows that our courts protect the right of all media to choose what they publish. That right extends to Internet media as well as print media. And it protects Chinese media as much as American media.”

Quinn Emanuel opened its first Asia office in Tokyo in 2007, followed by Sydney and Hong Kong last year.

Since launching in Hong Kong, the firm – which has previously acted for Baidu on an internet security case – has also been appointed to advise China’s biggest e-commerce company; Alibaba.

Related: Quinn adds to Asia presence with planned Hong Kong launch