Chinese authorities are demanding that search engines take more thorough steps to verify advertisers’ qualifications following a tragedy which saw a cancer patient tricked into paying for an ineffective treatment after finding an advert for it at the top of a Baidu search result.
Bloomberg reports that under the new rules, which will come into force on August 1, search engines operating within China will be prohibited from providing banned information in various formats including links, summaries, cached pages, associative words, related searches and relevant recommendations.
China’s internet regulator launched an investigation of Baidu following the death of 21-year-old computer science major Wei Zexi. After developing a rare form of cancer, Wei was misled by an advertisement on Baidu which promoted a phony cancer treatment that failed to treat his condition.
After his family spent 200,000 yuan ($30,000) in vain, Wei went online to vent his anger, not just at the hospital, but also at the search engine that had recommended the treatment to him. On Zhihu (Chinese Quora), Wei answered the question: “What do you think is the greatest evil of human nature?”
On April 14, Wei’s father wrote on Zhihu to say that his son had passed away earlier that day. In interviews with the media, Wei’s parents placed part of the blame for their son’s death on Baidu.
Baidu have since said that they will restrict the number of sponsored posts to 30 percent of a results page and establish a 1 billion yuan ($150 million) fund to fight fraud following the tragedy.
In a statement emailed to Bloomberg, Baidu said the following:
Baidu will comply fully with relevant laws and regulations as outlined by the Cyberspace Administration of China and work closely with government agencies, Internet users and the community to uphold a healthy Internet environment