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Baidu fires four for deleting posts

Updated: 2012-08-08 02:37
By Cao Yin ( China Daily)

Beijing police have detained three people working at Baidu Inc, the leading Chinese language Internet search provider, over allegations that they abused their positions and deleted forum posts in return for money.

The company confirmed that it had sacked the accused employees, along with a fourth person, who has not been included in the police investigation.

Baidu's professional ethics committee sent an e-mail to more than 16,000 staff members on Aug 1, saying four workers had made money by deleting posts on online forums under requests from other corporations.

Li Guoxun, a publicity officer for Baidu, said the four disobeyed a company rule requiring staff members not to delete posts or deal with netizens' complaints for money.

"Some clues were found by our professional ethics committee, while some were revealed by a channel provided for netizens and our employees," Li said, adding that the company often taught employees how to delete posts in line with the rules.

"We've always fought against post elimination for money and will report the matter to the police if we find similar cases," he said.

"Baidu will not hide such kinds of bribes and hopes the public can supervise our work," he said.

Police in the capital's Haidian district, which is handling the case, declined to give more details on Tuesday, but said someone who takes large bribes will face criminal punishment.

The Criminal Law states that staff members at private enterprises face up to five years in detention if the bribes are not very big. If the bribes are huge, they will be confiscated, and the person will be sentenced to more than five years in jail.

A Baidu insider, who has worked in the company for about a year and did not want to be identified, said bribes ranged from 6,000 yuan ($940) to tens of thousands of yuan.

"Under our rules, if an employee earns money or receives gifts by helping others delete posts without permission from the company, he or she will be criticized or fired," he said, adding that the four in the latest case received the severest punishment from the company.

Baidu will improve management targeted at employees working for online forums and give harsher punishments for those who get paid by erasing posts privately, according to Li.

Netizens can supply clues via the company's online reporting mailbox, the publicity officer said.

Yang Shuo, a 32-year-old employee responsible for forum management in a State-owned enterprise in Beijing, said it is very common to see staff members make money or take bribes by deleting posts in forums.

"Some companies often ask online forum administrators to delete posts that were not good for their images or business, or even let websites eliminate posts that were helpful to their opponents," Yang said.

"If the post is not harmful to the reputation or interest of residents or companies, forum administrators have no right to delete any information online," he said.

"If some companies want to delete posts, they must provide enough evidence to prove the information is not the truth."

Han Xue, who used to be a forum administrator in a private enterprise in Beijing, echoed Yang, saying the elimination of posts requires deletion requests accompanied by formal documents and evidence.

"Most companies don't want to disclose that their employees have taken bribes in a bid to maintain their image, but post elimination is not a secret in the Internet field," she added.

Yu Guofu, an attorney at Beijing Shengfeng Law Firm, said it is urgent for website companies to establish a "trust database" to record employees' achievements and wrongdoing.

"The punishments may not be heavy for the four at Baidu, but their illegal behavior should be written into their files, aiming to warn other companies not to recruit them," Yu said.

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