Beijing authorities have ordered search engine giant Baidu to improve the assessment of its advertising business and marketing service agents after it was entangled in a gambling website promotion scandal last month.
In a statement issued on Thursday, the Beijing municipal cyberspace watchdog said Baidu was responsible for the emergence of illegal gambling websites in its search results due to poor management of its marketing partners, poor monitoring of advertisements and a lack of security controls.
The Beijing branch of the Cyberspace Administration started investigating the company after media reports last month that online betting operators had set up Baidu accounts using the names of legitimate companies, and then created links to their services on the website at night. The links to the gambling sites were removed during the day.
The probe followed another investigation into Baidu by the administration earlier this year after the death of a 21-year-old cancer patient who lost critical time to find a cure by opting for an experimental treatment at a hospital that paid to be high on Baidu’s listings.
Authorities ended that investigation by listing three issues for the company to rectify, but did not levy any fines or other punishment.
Similarly this time, the administration listed five things that Baidu must do, but accepted the company’s denial that it was cooperating with gambling operators and its defence that those links had slipped through its net.
In ambiguous language, it asked Baidu identify the staff responsible and pursue legal liability. It also ordered the company to stop partnering with problematic marketing agents, and to improve assessments of its advertising services.
The company was also required to be more responsive to public complaints and to give timely feedback.
According to previous media reports, Baidu ignored ongoing complaints about the gambling links from a staff member of one marketing service agent.