Chinese authorities have launched new regulations for the nation’s search engines and the results they display to internet users. But as a country with some of the tightest controls over the internet, its use, and what information people have access to, China‘s new rules are actually beneficial for its citizens. Under the new rules, search engines are required to identify paid ads within search results, as well as verify advertisers.
These new regulations are tied to similar limits placed on healthcare advertisements that were put into effect on Baidu, China’s largest search engine. This was all prompted following an investigation by the government’s Cyberspace Administration into the death of 21-year-old Wei Zexi in April due to a rare form of cancer.
It was revealed that the student had pursued an experimental treatment he found in Baidu search results. After going to a Beijing hospital for the treatment, he discovered the expensive therapy was largely ineffective and wasn’t fully approved.
Chinese citizens expressed outrage over Baidu profiting from the advertisement of bogus medical treatment in search results, and the company’s CEO was even called before the government to account for the practice.
Under the new regulations, search engines are required to identify which results are paid-for ads and set a limit of how many ads appear among natural search results. In addition, they must verify the qualifications of advertising clients before doing business with them.
However, because it’s China, where censorship is rampant, the Cyberspace Administration also prohibits search engines from displaying results with information that is banned, obscene, and subversive. “Some search results lack objectivity and fairness, go against corporate morals and standards, misleading and influencing people’s judgement,” the regulator said in a statement. Search engine companies will also be required to report any websites or applications discovered to contain such prohibited content.