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Baidu vows to end search scam

Chinese website to stop sale of high ranking

CHINA — China’s top Internet search leader Baidu has vowed to overhaul its operations after state media revealed it allowed unlicensed medical services to buy high search rankings and lure more customers.

Revelations on a CCTV show that the high-flying Nasdaq-listed webco allowed unlicensed services pay for prominent positions on its pay-for-performance search platform, netting them more “clicks” for expensive but useless treatments, caused a wide outcry and hit the company’s stock price.

Baidu leads the Chinese web search and advertising market by a big margin, with an estimated two-thirds of the audience in the world’s most populous market. Baidu receives more than 100 million clicks daily.

Prexy Robin Li told the China Daily newspaper his group would take action.

“We have removed the key words of all four clients mentioned in the report and have begun to double-check the licenses of all other hospitals and pharmacies on our client list,” Li said.

The CCTV report showed that several patients visited hospitals or tried medicines that got high ranks in Baidu searches, often spending huge sums for ineffective treatments.

One patient spent over 10,000 yuan ($1,400) at one Baidu-boosted clinic listed to treat abdominal pain, but the treatment was ineffective.

The unlicensed clinic paid Baidu $2.43 per click to get a prominent ranking, skein said.

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