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Chinese government cracks down on search ads and “banned content”
New rules protect public but tighten government control over search results.
China is cracking down again on search content. Partly in response to the tragic death of college sophomore Wei Zexi, China is now requiring search engines to “report banned content and verify advertisers’ qualifications,” according to Bloomberg.
The report says that “banned information” cannot be maintained or presented in any form in search results (links, cached pages, recommendations and so on). Beyond this, search engines will be required to identify and report sites that contain any banned content.
As mentioned, this ostensibly arises out of Wei Zexi case. He died earlier this year after pursuing a bogus cancer treatment advertised in Baidu search results. Previously, China didn’t regulate claims in search ads.
There was a public outcry in China expressing concern that Baidu was misleading Chinese consumers. Reportedly, many people in China were unaware that links at the top of search results were ads. Following the Wei Zexi incident, Baidu pledged to reduce the number of ads shown. The company also established a fund to combat fraud.
The new search rules will help protect the public from false advertising or shady advertisers. However, they will also further the Chinese government’s efforts to censor content that it disapproves for political reasons.