CCTV breaks the news that Chinese search engine Baidu has been accepting money from illegal medical companies for paid search results. While paid search results have been criticised for undermining the integrity of the search experience, they continue to account for 80% of the company’s revenue. In the melamine scandal, Baidu was said to have accepted payment in exchange for censoring news that were not favourable to the dairy companies.
Explaining CCTV’s decision to expose Baidu, Steven Tang of Global Voices Online says:
Sometimes it’s hard for CCTV or Baidu to pick out illegal companies because of their “excellent camouflages”. In a sense, CCTV’s action to expose Baidu actually reflects their market share competition. Before Baidu grew into a search giant, traditional media like CCTV controlled a large share of the ad market, while as the internet thrived, shares were reallocated. Therefore, CCTV’s intention to expose Baidu’s scandal is easy to understand in two ways: first, as a media, CCTV is under “obligation” to expose information. Second, CCTV can reduce the credibility of its competitor in order to fight for more market share.
Almost overnight, Baidu announced that it would introduce a new system that would offer clearer distinction of paid links from ordinary search results.