Chinese technology giant Baidu processed more than 50 billion “harmful” pieces of information in 2018, up from the around 45 billion reported the previous year, as state control over the internet and cultural content increases.

The purge included content that relates to pornography, drug use, gambling, and fraud. On average, the company intercepted 1,500 pieces of information per second, Baidu said in an annual content management report, according to our sister site TechNode Chinese.

Since 2016, the Cyberspace Administration of China, China’s cyber watchdog, has targeted online service providers, including app creators, livestreamers, and chat room moderators. This has also been extended to include firms operating app stores, social networks, and cloud computing services. Companies have been held accountable for content created on their platforms.

Last year saw an intensification in content crackdowns targeting online platforms. As a result, internet companies were forced to hire legions of moderators as they struggled to adhere to increasingly strict regulations.

Tencent-backed short-video platform Kuaishou added 3,000 content checkers to its workforce in the first half of 2018. ByteDance-owned Jinri Toutiao had more than 6,000 moderators in 2018, with the expectation that figure would reach 10,000. The purge affected the country’s content aggregators, social networks, messaging apps, live-streaming platforms, and news sites.

Baidu said it had identified the content with its “self-surveillance” technology, using natural language processing, big data analytics, and artificial intelligence to identify information that could be considered problematic.

Local governments and scholars were also involved in a manual review process targeting pornography and fake news. Baidu said it received reports of nearly 18 million allegedly harmful pieces of information from the third-party sources in 2018. The company added that it hopes to include more than 2,000 institutions and experts to help in the reporting process in the future.

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: or Twitter: @jill_shen_sh

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