Opinion / Opinion Line

Online platforms have legal duty to screen illegal content they host

(China Daily) Updated: 2016-07-20 08:52

Online platforms have legal duty to screen illegal content they host

A smartphone showing the Baidu Browser application is seen in this picture illustration, February 22, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

BAIDU, the largest online search engine in China, hosted advertisements for dozens of gambling websites in the advertising section of certain search results from midnight to 6 am for five days on and off from late June to early this month. It has tried to shift the blame to the advertisers, but it is legally bound to screen illegal content and supervise its advertising, says Beijing News:

Baidu's PR efforts are aimed at diverting the public's focus away from the loopholes in its operation. In its statement, Baidu said the enterprises which paid for the advertisement changed the content late at night without seeking Baidu's authorization.

Is Baidu incapable of spotting and stopping such behavior? If so, Baidu's incapacity in this regard may have serious problems far beyond this. What if the "enterprises" replace their advertisements with more dangerous illegal information, such as promoting terrorism?

According to the regulations, Baidu should delete the illegal promotions of gambling websites from its search results instantly, never mind hosting their advertisements, and immediately report the rule-breakers to the administrative departments. Instead, Baidu did not act until its users complained about the problem to the media after the advertisements of gambling websites had appeared late at night for five days over a period of 10 days.

The timing does not excuse a looser standard of operation and supervision, especially for a large internet enterprise such as Baidu.

Baidu's advertising revenue is not influenced by the timing or revenue from illegal advertisements. Its annual operating revenue last year was more than 66.38 billion yuan ($10.21 billion), and more than half of it came from advertisements.

The judicial departments and internet authorities should investigate the matter and force Baidu to clean up its act according to law.

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