In what is being perceived as another attempt to tighten its control over the internet, China’s internet regulator on Saturday announced new rules that ban search engines from showing subversive information and obligate them to clearly identify paid results. The new regulations, which will take effect from Aug. 1, come close on the heels of the death of a 21-year-old college student, who is believed to have undergone an unapproved, experimental cancer treatment he found using the search engine Baidu.
“Some search results lack objectivity and fairness, go against corporate morals and standards, misleading and influencing people's judgment,” the Cyberspace Administration of China — the country’s internet regulator — reportedly said. “Internet search providers should earnestly accept corporate responsibility toward society, and strengthen their own management in accordance with the law and rules, to provide objective, fair and authoritative search results to users.”
In addition, search engines would also be required to censor “rumors, obscenities, pornography, violence, murder, terrorism and other illegal information” — regulations that the Chinese government claims are needed to safeguard the security of its citizens.
Earlier this year, Wei Zexi — a Chinese computer science major suffering from a rare form of cancer — died after he sought out and underwent a controversial treatment at a Beijing hospital. Before his death, Wei accused Baidu, China’s biggest search engine, of taking money to promote unproven, and often ineffective, medical treatments.
After Wei’s death — and the ensuing public criticism for failing to demarcate paid from unpaid search listing — Baidu announced that it would restrict the number of sponsored posts to 30 percent of results per page.
“Baidu will work closely with government agencies, internet users and the community to uphold a healthy internet environment, and strive to provide objective, impartial, and authoritative search results to our users,” the company reportedly said Saturday.