Baidu's credibility crisis self-inflicted
Updated: 2016-01-15 07:59
A side view of Baidu's headquarter in Beijing, May 22, 2014. [Photo/IC]
Baidu Inc has been accused of compromising patients' interests and putting people at risk with the exposure that its medical-related forums on Tieba, its online community-based group discussion service, are part of its commercial activities.
A forum for hemophilia patients, for example, has been used by 5,000 users as a platform to discuss and share information about the disease and its treatments. But by selling the forum to some unqualified medical agencies, Baidu has allowed it to be flooded with advertisements, some of them misleading.
A search on Baidu for medical information also leads to private and sometimes even unlicensed hospitals most of the time.
Baidu announced on Tuesday it will stop the commercialization of forums that focus on discussing the diagnoses and treatments of illnesses and invite non-profit organizations to operate them, but this has not been enough to mitigate public criticism of its failure to fulfill its social responsibility as the country's largest Internet search engine and filter out medical advertisements with exaggerated or false claims.
As a marketized Internet search giant, Baidu is entitled to pursue profits by selling advertising space on its forums or selling their operation. But such kind of commercial activities should not cross the moral bottom line. At the very least, Baidu should monitor the forums to ensure there is no misselling or false claims made for products and services.
A company, no matter its size, has a responsibility to those who use its products and services, and Baidu should fulfill this responsibility even if the forums are not operated by itself, as customers are using the forums based on the Baidu name.
It is hoped that Baidu's latest announcement is not a temporary emergency response to its current credibility crisis, but is instead a real step toward meeting the needs of consumers.