Date
24 March 2017
Baidu says it will comply with an order to clean up in-search healthcare advertisements. Photo: Bloomberg
Baidu says it will comply with an order to clean up in-search healthcare advertisements. Photo: Bloomberg

Regulators curb healthcare ads on Baidu after student’s death

Chinese regulators have imposed limits on the number of healthcare advertisements carried by Internet search giant Baidu.

The move comes in the wake of the death of a student who underwent an experimental cancer treatment which he found via the search engine, Reuters reported.

Baidu must clean up in-search healthcare adverts, and the positioning of paid-for search adverts of any kind cannot only be based on the highest bidder, the Cyberspace Administration of China was quoted as saying in a statement. 

The number of such adverts must also account for no more than 30 percent of a page of search results, it said.

A Baidu spokeswoman was quoted as saying that the company accepts the regulator’s decision and that it will implement the requirements placed on it following the investigation.

“This overhaul will affect Baidu’s short-term interests,” the company said in a statement.

Baidu will immediately review its in-search adverts for healthcare and won’t help medical institutions that haven’t gained regulatory approval to advertise, the statement said.

Although Baidu can still advertise healthcare treatments the move still comes as a blow to the company, Reuters noted.

“In our worst-case scenario, we estimate that 10-15 percent of Baidu’s total search revenue would be at risk, assuming very strict regulations on medical online advertising going forward,” wrote Daiwa analyst John Choi last week.

Baidu has come in for fierce online criticism for how it handles adverts within its search results.

Before his death, 21-year-old student Wei Zexi not only accused the military-run hospital that provided the failed treatment of misleading claims about its effectiveness but also alleged that Baidu had promoted false medical information.

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