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Alibaba employee in India sues, saying he was dismissed for challenging censorship practices

Former Alibaba CEO Jack Ma has been ordered to respond.
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A former Indian employee is suing Alibaba and its owner Jack Ma for wrongful termination, according to a report on Reuters. In a case filed at a court in Gurugram, a New Delhi satellite city, the former employee alleged he was fired for questioning fake news and censorship on apps owned by Alibaba.

Until October 2017, Pushpandra Singh Parmar worked as an associate director at UC Web office in Gurugram. In the case he filed on July 20, he claims that UC apps censor content unfavorable to the Chinese regime and promote fake news to “cause social and political turmoil.”

Following the case filing, the Civil Judge at the Gurugram District Court, Sonia Sheokand, has summoned Alibaba, Jack Ma, and other individuals and company units to appear before the court on July 29 through a lawyer. Court documents also show that the judge has demanded written responses from Alibaba and its executives, which are to be submitted within 30 days.
Parma is suing for about $268,000 in damages.

This case is another blow for Alibaba in India after its apps, UC Browser and UC News, alongside another 57 Chinese apps, were banned in India due to the ongoing dispute between the two countries. India demanded that all affected apps should provide written statements to prove they neither censored content nor acted on behalf of any foreign government.

The lawsuit contains a “sensitive words list” with key words in Hindi and English like “India-China border” and “Sino-India war” that the court filing suggests were used by UC Web to censor content on its platforms. “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,” the filing said.

Before the banning of the apps, UC News and UC browser had 79.8 and 689 million downloads, respectively, in India. Now, the company has been forced to start laying off employees in its India offices.

In a statement, UC India claimed to have been “unwavering in its commitment to the Indian market and the welfare of its local employees, and its policies are in compliance with local laws. We are unable to comment on ongoing litigation.”

In the 200-page case filing, Parmar included examples of fake news promoted by UC News. One example was a news headline from 2017 that read, “2,000-rupee notes to be banned from midnight today,” which did not happen. Another one from 2018 claimed that a war broke out between Pakistan and India; no war between the two countries occurred in 2018.

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