China’s internet watchdog has ordered a probe into the country’s biggest online search engine Baidu, amid mounting criticism over its policy to give prominent placement for sponsored health-care providers in its search results.
A task force was set up to probe Baidu over a controversy following the death of a student who sought treatment for his cancer and later died after treated at a hospital he had found on top of his Baidu search, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported today.
Cyberspace Administration officials, alongside health authorities and officials from the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, will look into the allegation and whether the practice is legal, the Post report said.
Critics say Baidu should do more to check the claims made by advertisers who pay for high rankings in online searches.
Wei Zexi, a computer science student from Shaanxi province, died in April of synovial sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that occurs in the soft tissue around the joints.
Wei, 21, used Baidu to search for recommended treatments for his tumours after undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy, a statement issued by his parents published by Chinese news outlet Caixin said.
Baidu scientists admit to ‘mistake’ on supercomputer test amid cheating claims, the report said.
Wei opted for a form of immunotherapy a treatment that tries to get the body’s immune system to fight the disease offered by a hospital run by the Beijing armed police that came up top in the Baidu search results, the statement said.
The Second Hospital of the Beijing Armed Police Corps describes its DC-CIK short for dendritic cells and cytokine-induced killer cells treatment to tackle tumours as the most advanced technology in its promotional material.
It said the treatment had been developed by Stanford University in the US, which had cooperated in transferring its expertise to China.
The effectiveness of immunotherapy in tackling cancer has been questioned by some medical experts.
It is still an experimental treatment, the Post quoted Dr Stephen Chan, an associate professor at the Department of Clinical Oncology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
The therapy was still undergoing clinical trials and should not be used routinely as a standard treatment for cancer, Chan said.