Snake oil ads land China's top search engine in trouble

Chinese regulators want Baidu to stop advertising quacks' one weird trick

Chinese search engine Baidu is under investigation after a case of dodgy medical advertising hit the headlines.

Healthcare advertising is a lucrative line for the company, with a Tencent Technology report last year putting its income from the sector in the vicinity of US$1.5 billion in 2014.

Chinese government news agency Xinhua says China's Cyberspace Administration Board is concerned that Baidu doesn't do enough to weed out advertisements for quack cures.

It stems from the case of one Wei Zexi, whose family forked out the equivalent of US$30,000 for treatment of a synovial sarcoma at a government clinic they found in a Baidu search.

The clinic involved was at the Second Hospital of the Beijing Armed Police Corps.

After the treatment was unsuccessful and Wei Zexi died, the search engine was the subject of criticism for letting advertisers promote dodgy medical practices in their search ads.

For its own part, Baidu says it's asked for the hospital to be investigated.

The company was already under fire for selling health forum moderator rights to private hospitals, as outlined in the Financial Times here.

Late last month, it reported a slump in profits, although revenue was up. ®

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