Chinese regulators have launched a crackdown on paid-for advertising from the search engine Baidu following public outrage at the death of a student who tried an experimental cancer drug which came top of his search on the platform.
The incident has rekindled accusations that Baidu has been selling lucrative listings to bidders without performing adequate checks on the veracity of their businesses or products.
In an effort to contain the public relations fall-out from the incident, Baidu had already promised to overhaul its rankings to ensure results are ordered by credibility rather than price paid.
The Cyberspace Administration of China has gone one step further however after decreeing that Baidu had lent ‘too much weight’ to promoted results and moreover these were ‘not clearly marked’, with a small ‘promote’ notice located at the bottom of paid for results being easily missed.
As such the agency has outlined four key changes it wishes to see Baidu make, namely: clean-up healthcare advertisements; a ban on promoting unapproved medical institutions, overhaul rankings such that they are primarily ranked by credibility and a cap on paid-for promotions to 30 per cent of search results per page.
Baidu is China’s largest search engine by far with a 70 per cent market share.