In a stunning case, a Gurgaon court has summoned Alibaba and its founder Jack Ma after a former employee of the company’s India branch made some sensational allegations against the Alibaba and its founder. The former employee claimed that he was wrongfully fired for objecting to alleged censorship and fake news on the company’s app, according to a report by the Reuters.
Interestingly, the case comes just weeks after the govt banned 59 Chinese apps including Alibaba’s UC News and UC Browser. In court filings of 20th July, which are available with news agency Reuters, the now-fired UC Web employee claims that the company had been censoring and editing content as per China’s political interests. The employee also claimed that Alibaba’s apps UC News and UC Browser displayed fake news, with the aim of causing social and political upheaval.
The district court judge in Gurugram has now summoned Alibaba, its founder Jack Ma and around a dozen other people or company units. Reuters claims that they may appear in court or send a lawyer on their behalf on July 29th. The judge also asked for a response in writing by the company and its executives within a month.
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Though UC India hasn’t spoken out directly on the petition the company issued a statement claiming that it had been ‘resolute in its commitment to the Indian market and fair treatment of its locally hired employees, and its policies fully comply with local law.’
The former associate director at the UC Web workstation in Gurugram is reportedly seeking $2,68,000 in damages. In his filings, the petitioner has highlighted some clippings of news that he alleges were false. This former employee claims that the news items included a post where a headline read ‘Just now: War broke out between India and Pakistan”. Also, the court filings contained some keywords that were allegedly used by UC Web to censor news on its platforms. The keywords were in both English and Hindi. As per the court filings, these keywords were used by the accused to censor its content in India. The filing also said that in order to control any news related content to be published against China was automatically/manually rejected by an audit system evolved for this purpose.
This court case is serving as a new hurdle for Alibaba after India’s app ban. Data from Sensor Tower shows that before the app ban by the Indian Government, there were 689 million downloads of UC Browser in India. UC News had 79.8 million downloads in India, most of them were during 2017-18. Also, after the app ban by the Indian Govt, UC Web started laying off several Indian staff members.
While banning UC browser, news and other apps, India had stated that banned Chinese apps on credible inputs of the apps being a threat to India’s sovereignty. The IT Minister of India had then said that India took the app ban decision to protect its citizen’s data and public order.
No comments have been made on the subject yet by the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi, China’s foreign ministry in Beijing or India’s IT ministry in New Delhi on the litigation yet.