23 March 2018
Baidu pledged to work closely with government agencies and internet users to uphold a healthy internet environment.  Photo: Bloomberg
Baidu pledged to work closely with government agencies and internet users to uphold a healthy internet environment. Photo: Bloomberg

China tightens rules for search engines after student’s death

China’s internet regulator has ordered search engines to tighten management of search results by making it clear which ones are paid-for and limiting their numbers.

Last month the regulator imposed limits on the number of lucrative healthcare adverts carried by Baidu Inc. following the death of a student who underwent an experimental cancer treatment which he found using China’s biggest internet search engine, Reuters said.

Wei Zexi, 21, died in April of a rare form of cancer, and the case sparked widespread public anger.

In its new set of rules, the Cyberspace Administration of China said search engines should investigate the “aptitude” of clients offering paid-for ads, set a clear upper limit on such ads and clearly distinguish which are paid-for ads and which come from “natural searches”.

“Internet search providers should earnestly accept corporate responsibility toward society, and strengthen their own management in accordance with the law and rules, to provide objective, fair and authoritative search results to users,” it said.

Users have voiced concerns over the proliferation of online medical ads, which are a threat to people’s health, the news agency quoted the regulator as saying.

“Some search results include illegal contents like rumors, obscenity, violence, homicide and terror; some search results lack objectivity and fairness, which violates the corporate moral standards, misleads and affects public judgment,” the Wall Street Journal quoted an unnamed CAC official as saying on the regulator’s website.

“Those problems destruct internet ecology, disturb the communication orders of internet information and harm public interests,” the official added.

Under the rules that will take effect on Aug. 1, search engines operating in the country will be prohibited from providing banned information in various formats including links, summaries, cached pages, associative words, related searches and relevant recommendations, Bloomberg quoted the regulator as saying in a statement.

They will also be required to report websites and applications that contain prohibited content when spotted, the regulator said.

Baidu pledged its commitment to provide the best search experience and fully comply with the law, Reuters said.

“Baidu will work closely with government agencies, internet users and the community to uphold a healthy internet environment, and strive to provide objective, impartial, and authoritative search results to our users,” the search giant said in a statement.

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