Baidu apologises for ‘scam ads’ that showed up in search for US consulate in Shanghai
Baidu has apologised for promoting “scam ads” in search results for the US consulate in Shanghai after a popular Chinese writer openly criticised the country’s largest search engine on her Weibo microblog.
The company feels “deeply sorry” for the inconvenience Liu Liu encountered and has removed all advertisements for visa application agencies that appear under the search, Baidu’s promotion department said in its own Weibo post on Thursday afternoon.
The response comes hours after the writer – using the pseudonym of Liu Liu – slammed Baidu and its founder Robin Li Yanhong for the “numerous scam ads” that appeared when using its search engine to look for the US consulate in Shanghai.
“Are you in the search business or chief of fraudsters?” she asked in the post addressed to Li and Baidu. The post got about 30,000 thumbs-up and over 7,000 comments as of 5.30pm Thursday.
The Nasdaq-listed company fell into public disgrace in 2016 when its medical advertisements were blamed for the early death of a 21-year-old, who died from a rare form of cancer after receiving treatment from a hospital whose ads appeared on top of the list on his Baidu search.
Baidu has about 70 per cent of the country’s search market, according to data from StatCounter Global Stats.
The most recent outcry also shifted attention back to Google’s rumoured re-entry to the search market in China, where more than 800 million people are connected to the internet. There have been reports that Google plans to launch a censored version of its search engine in China, marking a major shift in strategy for the US internet giant nearly a decade after it quit the world’s second largest economy over Beijing’s strict censorship rules.
The final version of Google’s modified search app, which will blacklist sites on human rights, democracy, religion and other issues deemed sensitive by the Chinese government, has already been shown to authorities and is now pending approval, according to The Intercept, the online news publication that first reported the news, citing people familiar with the matter and internal Google documents.
Google executives told employees in a meeting in August that the company is "not close to launching" a search product in China but is considering how to do business in the country.
In the end, the Weibo writer Liu Liu said in her post that she was so fed up that she was left little choice but to use a VPN and search on Google, where she found the US consulate’s homepage at the top of the search results.