China clamps down on paid online ads in wake of cancer student’s death

Search engines were ordered to identify paid search results clearly on Saturday in a clampdown prompted by the plight of a terminally ill cancer patient. The new rules were introduced in China after college student Wei Zexi complained that he was misled into paying for ineffective treatment by the giant search engine Baidu. The Cyberspace Administration of China said search engines must review the qualifications of paying clients, clearly identify paid results and limit the number of paid results on a web page. It also reinforced the ban on search engines showing subversive content and obscene information.

Some search results lack objectivity and fairness, go against corporate morals and standards, misleading and influencing people’s judgement

Cyberspace Administration of China

Mr Wei, who died in April of a rare cancer, had written a long post on a Chinese website detailing how he was led to a Beijing hospital for treatments after searching on Baidu. The 21-year-old said that the treatment turned out to be ineffective and expensive and that later he learned the therapy was yet to be fully approved. The student accused Baidu of taking money to promote less proven treatments. The regulator announced the new rules on its website, saying: “Internet search providers should earnestly accept corporate responsibility towards society.”