By Michael Evans.
Baidu announced Monday that it would lock definitions of over 40,000 medical terms in its user- edited Baidu Baike encyclopedia, allowing only verified medical professionals to make changes.
The company says that the move is unrelated to criticisms leveled against its management of the encyclopedia last week by Gong Xiaoming, a Beijing gynecologist.
Gong suggested in a Sina Weibo post that Baidu Baike unfairly favoured private hospitals who advertized on the site.
Gong said he submitted a correction to Baike but was ignored. Using an ID from a private hospital, the change was promptly made a few days later.
“Those private hospitals are managing the medical terms on Baidu Baike while they place advertisements. It has turned into a marketing battleground for private hospitals,” Gong told the Global Times.
This is not the first time Baidu has seen controversy over medical ads on its site. A 2008 CCTV report accused the search engine of taking payments from unlicensed medical companies in exchange for ranking them higher in users’ search results, while excluding websites that refused to pay.
Baidu quickly responded, pledging tighter controls on its paid search listings, which it said made up between 10 and 15 percent of the company’s total revenue.