Baidu is investigating how online search results for a line of political thought attributed to President Xi Jinping guided users to a video clip appearing to ridicule the Chinese leader, Bloomberg reported.
Why it matters: Baidu has long faced scrutiny for the quality of its search results. The company has been accused of promoting content from its own platforms and hosting questionable ads for healthcare services.
- The latest incident represents a major faux pas, as China’s leaders typically don’t take well to mockery.
- Baidu, like other tech companies operating in the country, is required to filter politically sensitive topics.
Baidu declined to comment when reached by TechNode on Friday.
Details: Baidu users looking for information about Xi’s “Four Greats,” a doctrine developed by the Chinese leader, were directed to results that included a video explaining the Chinese phrase for “tooting your own horn.”
- Baidu had fixed the issue by Tuesday evening, but is investigating how the two topics were linked, Bloomberg sources said.
- Some users circulated the search results privately on social media.
Context: Content platforms in China are required to censor sensitive text and images in order to escape government censure. Failure to abide by content-related laws can result in a company having to suspend its services or pay fines, or end up having its business license revoked.
- Baidu has faced increasing pushback for the content across its platforms. In 2016, a university student died of cancer after receiving ineffective treatment he had found through prominently placed ads in Baidu search results.
- More recently, the company apologized after posting a fake message in which the author claimed to be the father of a girl who went missing and whose body was later found in mid-July.