Months after a terminally ill cancer patient complained of misleading ‘Baidu’ search paid ads, China has issued new regulations demanding that search engines clearly identify paid search results. Wei Zexi, 22, died after a dubious cancer treatment that his family found from a search result on Baidu.
The regulator made a statement saying that search service providers should be aware of their social responsibility and must provide objective, fair, and authoritative search results, as they are meant to.
Paid listings could not be differentiated from normal search results, which often misled users, the administration said. Some medical organizations which paid for search results were unqualified or had fake certificates, it said, adding –
The content of some search results was found to be rumors, pornographic, violent or related to terrorism
The Cyberspace Administration of China announced the new regulations on Saturday, and it also bans search engines from showing subversive content and obscene information. As part of the ruling, the regulator is allowed to demand reports and cached information from search providers if they are believed to have content that threatens the public or national security.
Similar concerns had been raised in India during the whole ‘Net Neutrality‘ debacle. Although the issue was not about search engines in particular but about getting only the sponsored links to browse from, be it because of search engines or the ISP’s.