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The Chinese internet giant Baidu is coming under intense criticism from furious users following the revelation that the company has been profiting from giving incorrect or biased information to seriously ill users.
Baidu’s Tieba service allows users to join discussion groups and chat with other group members, with posts and comments being moderated by an administrator.
In recent days it has been revealed that Baidu has been selling administrator roles for illness-related discussion groups to commercial medical companies, some of which are unofficial or unqualified.
It came to light after one user complained that he had been removed as the administrator for a haemophilia group, and that he had been replaced by another user who was now promoting an unqualified hospital and removing negative comments posted by other users about the facility.
Baidu scrambled to save its reputation by announcing that it would no longer sell administrator roles for illness-related discussion groups to commercial entities, but it may be too little too late.
Tens of thousands of people in China have pledged to boycott Baidu, and the topic has attracted over a million views on the social network Weibo, with some users branding Baidu’s actions as “evil”.
This could be good news for Google, which is rumoured to be planning to re-enter the Chinese market.