China tightens Internet rules for Baidu, other search engines

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Shanghai: Chinese authorities will require Baidu Inc. and other search engines to report banned content and verify advertisers’ qualifications in its latest attempt at Internet regulation.

Under rules to take effect 1 August, search engines operating in the country will be prohibited from providing banned information in various formats including links, summaries, cached pages, associative words, related searches and relevant recommendations, the Cyberspace Administration of China said in a statement. They will also be required to report websites and applications that contain prohibited content when spotted, the regulator said.

Baidu, China’s biggest search engine, has been criticized recently for misleading users with search results. The Cyberspace Administration launched an investigation earlier this year after the death of Wei Zexi, a 21-year-old computer science major, who sought out a controversial treatment advertised among search results. Baidu said it would restrict the number of sponsored posts to 30 percent of a results page and establish a ¥1 billion ($151 million) fund to fight fraud after the death of the student.

Search engines that offer paid results will need to verify advertisers’ qualifications, specify the ratio of paid results and distinguish between natural search results and advertisements, the administration said in the statement.