CHINA (CelebrityAccess) Baidu, China’s biggest search engine, is suing a small-time club comedian because he posted a joke it says damaged the company’s reputation and public image.
Baidu confirmed the lawsuit to CNN Tech but declined to comment.
The comedian goes by the online moniker Monologue at 7:30 and requested to only be identified by his last name, Sun. He posted a joke earlier this year on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, that referenced a rumor about the personal life of Baidu chief executive and founder Robin Li and apparently a sly reference to its search results. The company has filed a 5 million yuan (US$732,000) lawsuit claiming the post defamed Li and has asked for a public apology.
Sun told CNN he was shocked to see “a company of this size sue an individual over a joke.”
The lawsuit comes as China’s ruling Communist Party tightens its grip on the country’s cyberspace. In April, the government shut down an online joke-sharing platform with more than 200 million users.
Sun said he will continue to write jokes and fight his legal battle to the end.
“I’ve always known how difficult it is to create satire in our environment, but I didn’t realize the situation had become so bad,” he said on Weibo. “If we are no longer allowed to even make fun of Baidu, I don’t know what will happen next.”
“I can’t afford to lose this case.”