Chinese web giant Baidu has been forced to sack four employees, three of whom were arrested by local police on suspicion of accepting bribes in return for deleting user-generated posts on one of the firm's sites.
Baidu PR officer Li Guoxun told Global Times that police got involved in the case due to the large sums of money involved – potentially running into the tens of thousands of yuan.
"Baidu has fired the four. If we discover such cases, we will severely punish staff,” said Li. “Baidu will close the loopholes by strengthening management to maintain order in our communication platform.”
The three employees, surnamed Lu, Xu and Sun, were arrested by officers from the Beijing Public Security Bureau in July for colluding with external third parties to remove the content.
The fourth employee involved, surnamed Guo, was apparently found out before he had a chance to complete the deal.
Reports didn’t specify exactly what content was targeted by the four rogue members of staff and The Reg was still waiting to hear back from Baidu for confirmation at the time of writing.
It's worth noting that professional post deletion companies have snowballed in China in recent years, offering their services to any PR and marketing companies keen to erase negative online content about their clients.
Such firms obviously rely on having a network of insiders at the web companies which host such user-generated content.
Prices can start off in the low hundreds of yuan for deletion of single posts and go all the way up to hundreds of thousands for an annual subscription.
Although Baidu has sought to nip this one in the bud by quickly purging itself of the allegedly responsible employees, it must be remembered that the firm is already complicit in far more extensive censorship of online content, by agreeing to government demands over what can and can’t be accessed via its services. ®