Baidu Vows to Improve Search Services After Complaints Went Viral

Baidu Inc. came under intense fire by Chinese netizens for the past two days due to complaints of low quality services and manipulation of search results to give more exposure to its own Baijiahao services.

Baidu was placing low-quality pieces from its Baijiahao service, which selects articles from both legacy and independent media outlets, and other Baidu properties toward the top of its search results,” journalist Fang Kecheng wrote in a WeChat article on Jan. 22.

Fang explained that even browsing in incognito mode on Chrome, to avoid personal preference algorithms, more than half of the search results were from Baijiahao pages. Some even included content from infamous satirical news page—The Onion.

cover of Fang Kecheng's article
cover of Fang Kecheng’s article (Source: 新闻实验室)

Baidu no longer plans on being a good search engine. It only wants to be a marketing platform, and hopes to turn users searching for content into traffic for itself,” he wrote. Baidu responded on Wednesday, saying that Baijiahao articles account for roughly 10 percent of its search results. The company will continue to improve its media aggregating service and explained that Baijiahao was designed to optimize retrieval speeds for mobile users.

According to Reuters, shares of U.S.-listed Baidu tumbled 6.4 percent on Tuesday, or about $4 billion by value, since the release of Fang’s article, which sparked concerns over its advertising practices.

Baidu has been the subject of a lot of negative media exposure over the years. The company underwent a cleanup of illegal medical advertising that emerged in 2016. The strict regulation that went into effect later slashed its number of eligible advertisers.

Featured Image Source: The Verge