Chinese internet market - search engine Baidu toughens stance on corruption

09/08/2012

In the Chinese internet market, the search engine Baidu dominates traffic generation to websites. This week it announced that four of its staff have been dismissed following corruption allegations that posts were deleted on its websites in exchange for personal payments. With three of the staff subsequently arrested by Chinese police, it shows the importance Baidu has achieved in the Chinese internet market.

Four of Baidu’s employees suspected of accepting payments to delete posts on the company’s forum.

The search giant has already fired the four staff members involved - of which three have now been arrested. It has not been confirmed why the fourth member has avoided further action, nor what posts were deleted.

A spokeswoman for the firm, Betty Tian, told the BBC the bribes amounted to “tens of thousands of yuan”, which equates to thousands of pounds. There are thought to be a number of underground agencies in China offering to delete online content, receiving payment from organisations keen to stamp out negative press.

In a statement, Baidu said it has “discovered the suspicious behaviour of several employees in its recent crackdown on illegal online post deletion. Baidu does not tolerate such behavior, and has disciplined the non-compliance staff based on relevant disciplinary guidelines...Baidu has also proactively reported actions involving illegal behaviour to the public security organs.”
Baidu, as well as other Chinese web companies and foreign websites aiming to operate in China, has to comply with the country's strict internet regulations.

Known as The Great Firewall, the system bans a number of foreign web services in the communist nation and imposes strict censorship and self-censorship rules.

There are a number of illegal agencies in China that promise to delete controversial or negative online content on behalf of companies or individuals.

To deal with unwanted web posts legally, companies such as US-based Reputation.com specialise in creating positive content, which is meant to come up higher in the search results.
Baidu became the first Chinese company to join the Nasdaq 100 index in 2007. It gained greater notoriety in the West in June when Apple announced a partnership with the search engine to bring its service onto iOS. It is hoped the link-up will boost sales and revenue in China for the US firm.

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