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Indian court summons Jack Ma, Alibaba in worker lawsuit

Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba Group, attends the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland on Jan 23, 2019. [Photo/VCG]. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

NEW DELHI, Jul 27, 2020, TechNode. An Indian district court has summoned Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and its founder Jack Ma in a lawsuit from a former employee of web browser firm UC Web complaining that he was wrongfully fired for objecting to the company’s practices of censoring content and publishing false news, TechNode reported.

Why it matters: The employee said that he was fired over his objections to media manipulation practices at Alibaba’s UC Web, another high-profile dispute at a time of tense diplomatic ties between China and India following a deadly clash along a shared border.

UC Web’s UC Browser was ranked second in the Indian mobile browser market with a 23% share, according to TechCrunch citing data from third-party analytics firm StatCounter. It trailed Google Chrome which holds a massive 63% share.

UC Browser was among the 59 apps banned by the Indian government in late June over national security concerns. Other blacklisted apps include short video platform Tiktok, messaging app Wechat, Baidu Maps, and microblogging platform Weibo.

Details: A court in Gurgaon, a satellite city of New Delhi and location of UC Web’s main Indian office, summoned Ma and around a dozen Alibaba representatives and business units for a wrongful termination lawsuit, Reuters reported on Sunday, citing court documents. A former UC Web employee said he was wrongfully fired after objecting to what he saw as censorship and fake news distributed on company apps, according to the report.

Pushpandra Singh Parmar, who said he worked as an associate director at the UC Web office in Gurugram until October 2017, alleged the company censored content seen as unfavorable to China and promoted false news through its apps UC Browser and UC News, according to documents obtained by Reuters.

“UC has been unwavering in its commitment to the India 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,” a UC India representative said in a written statement to TechNode on Monday.

Wang Shuai, Alibaba partner and chairman of Alibaba’s marketing and public relations committee, confirmed that UC India received the court notice in a comment on Wechat Moments, local media (in Chinese) reported.

Wang said that the Indian unit is working on the issue according to relevant procedures, adding jokingly that it has been hard to find Ma after his retirement. He claimed to have failed to reach Ma after trying to reach out to him for a whole day and jokingly suggested the team try its luck in the HBB Music Bar nightclub, which Ma founded.

Context: Alibaba in 2014 acquired UCWeb, best known for its popular mobile browser UC Browser. It is now part of the e-commerce giant’s digital media and entertainment group.

Emma Lee is Shanghai-based tech writer, covering startups and tech happenings in China and Asia in general.

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