China’s internet tussle
As Baidu took a dominant position in China with Google’s exit last year, it was expected that China’s leading search engine would have a hassle-free existence, without any foreseeable competition or issues with the Chinese government. Problems started to sidle, however, when CCTV, the state run broadcaster, exposed Baidu over fraudulent promoted links. As a private company, Baidu has strictly adhered to rules and guidelines in place but its growing clout has caused some unease in Beijing as the Chinese government does not like private entities with high public influence.
In recent days, CCTV has been continuously attacking Baidu over the matter of fraudulent links, incidentally CCTV has a search engine too which pales in comparison to Baidu over usage. The people at Baidu, however, do not see this matter as an issue which is linked to government unease. So far the spokespeople at Baidu have refused to comment on the exposé of fraudulent links instead employing their old strategy of silence in such situations.
In a recent turn of events, Baidu censored its own search engine to hide negative news about the company. Search results for “CCTV” and “Baidu” in Chinese brings up no results but rather the all too familiar sentence that many Chinese have come across:
Search results may not comply with relevant laws, regulations, and policies, and have not been displayed.
CCTV itself has also been emboldened by hard hitting journalists looking to reach the depths of every story and feed the public demand for news. Extensive media coverage over embarrassing matters was previously unheard of, but in recent times, CCTV has factually covered news without any state sponsored twists.
In China, it is difficult to gain factual insight into developing stories as most matters are dealt with behind closed doors. The recent media attention aimed at Baidu could very well be a part of state unease with the Internet giant. However, this is all based on conjecture and as things go in China, the reality behind the tussle will always remain a mystery for many.