May 05, 2016

My Thinking about Baidu's Ad Business and the Student's Death

(Here is my short answer on Quora.)

The death of a 21 year old student with Baidu’s ad business, has been a hit in recent days. Related articles flood on my WeChat Friends Circle. And topics are such a hit in Zhihu. There are countless articles blaming hardly to the evil Baidu.

Personally, I don’t like Baidu for a long time. I seldom use Baidu’s service, including it’s search engine, because it cannot provide me with the information I want as precisely as Google does. Moreover, Baidu is blamelessly providing false results and stealing user’s privacy.

But I still want to say something different. I am confused why all criticisms are pointing to (and nearly only to) Baidu. The internet site, Baidu, of course, has its own faults. It should not provide misleading information for the purpose of making money, especially in the field of hospital, medicine, etc, that is closely related to one’s lives.

However firstly, I think as a grown adult, one also has to learn how to judge all various of information. Misleading information is anywhere, not only in China. US also has misleading information about treatment, medicine, etc. The student should have required as many information as possible to make a more logical choice than he did.

I think people are blaming Baidu so hardly these days is because Baidu is nearly the only information source most of people can obtain. In other words, Baidu is the only entrance to web information. So people have endowed Baidu with more social responsibility than it should, especially in contraction with Google that provides a much better service and seldom does anything “evil”.

But doesn’t it have a lot connection with the gfw and information regulation? In a free market economy, Baidu should have easily dropped out considering the low-level services it is providing. However it doesn’t. Why? There are many important and implicit reasons.

Firstly, lacking of competition in the market. There is a hidden wall in web, and Google quitted the market many years ago. It would be horrible that a huge company has no competitor in the market. Secondly and moreover, the government rarely did anything positive in medical treatment and health care. There is little government’s regulation, so PuTian Medical Group(in Chinese, 莆田系) becomes rampant.

There is a real case, that Google has forfeits $500 million for its online ads and prescription drug sales. Google do not do evil, it’s true, but it’s due to government’s regulation and the restriction of law. As for Baidu, when people are blaming for it’s own behaviour, why not thinking twice what is the root cause that leads it to do such things?

New York Times published an article these days saying “The government is now investigating Baidu over student’s death.” It sounds quite reasonable. But shouldn’t the CCTV news report and the dishonest doctor also be harshly investigated? Moreover, it’s the government that should be firstly looked into. The fraudulence of public and military hospital, government’s lack of supervision should take the responsibility.

In this article I am not saying Baidu should not be blamed. Of course it should. Baidu provides a worse service, harms so many families, and takes so many dirty money away. However, I am writing to express my idea that the fundamental reason of this case should not be a company. I am just curious why all people are pointing to Baidu in disregard of the root cause. But what is the root? It seems to be something that can never be expressed openly in China. So Baidu has become such a target for all. And the public believes. What a sadness.

p.s. I also write a short blog article in Chinese. Click here to take a look.

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