China / Hot Issues

NGOs take aim at paid web listings

By Cao Yin (China Daily) Updated: 2016-05-06 07:31

Academics call for definition of what constitutes an ad

Search engine Baidu, which has been caught in public outcry over a man's recent death, was also suspected by several medical NGOs of presenting fake advertisements.

Chinadolls Center For Rare Disorders, one of the NGOs, said on Thursday that it had reported Baidu to Beijing's industry and commerce authorities for what it believed could be fake medical advertisements.

Wei Zexi, a 21-year-old computer science major at Xidian University in Shaanxi province died from synovial sarcoma, a rare soft tissue cancer, on April 12. Since September, he had received four treatments using cells generated by his own immune system to kill cancer cells.

Wei's parents said their son researched the disease on Baidu, and the hospital that provided the treatment-the Second Hospital of the Beijing Armed Police Corps-was listed second in the search results.

Paid listings are part of an internet advertising model used to direct traffic to websites. The system, under which an advertiser pays a search engine each time an ad is clicked, has long been a major source of revenue for Baidu.

Zhang Haoyu, an officer at the NGO, said the report claimed that such a model violates the country's advertising law.

The State Administration for Industry and Commerce made public a draft regulation for online advertising to solicit public opinion last year, but no announcement has been made on its status.

Liu Junhai, a professor of civil and commercial law at Renmin University of China, said that a paid listing is advertising.

Zhu Wei, an associate professor at China University of Political Science and Law, said that whether or not a paid listing is advertising should be clarified and its difference from general advertising should be defined.

On Jan 19, after receiving many patients' complaints saying that they were defrauded by hospitals they found on Baidu, the center set up the NGO Alliance of Anti-Online False Medical Advertising with another 30 NGOs and reported Baidu to the industry and commerce bureau in Haidian district.

"We were informed that our report was being investigated three days later, but then no more information was released," Zhang said, adding that is why he went to the Beijing Administration of Industry and Commerce to push the case on Wednesday.

A report from Beijing News said the authorities will extend the time for the investigation because it is hard to define whether or not the promotion on Baidu is advertising.

Luo Wangshu contributed to this story.

Previous Page 1 2 Next Page

Hot Topics