Virtually 95% of all Internet experiences begin with a search engine, whether it be search engine giant Google, or others like Bing and Yahoo. But, in China there is only one.
Baidu shares 70% of the Chinese Internet market and abides by strict Chinese laws to filter out political information deemed by the government as illegal or harmful.
Since Google is blocked in China, its people are forced to use Baidu to get all of their information. And now the Chinese government is investigating the company as a whole after one user died of a rare form of cancer.
Wei Zexi was 21 when he found out he had a rare form of cancer, synovial sarcoma. When he was unable to find successful treatment with his doctors, he searched for other options on Baidu.
He found The Second Hospital of Beijing Armed Police Corps, which advertised a highly successful treatment in collaboration with Stanford medical school.
These claims were false, and the treatment caused Zexi to deteriorate even faster.
Claiming Baidu deceived him, Zexi uploaded a plea for help on the Internet.
“I don’t want to die,” NPR reports him saying. “My 21 years of effort have not yet born fruit. I still have dreams. I still want to see this wide world.”
Wei Zexi died on April 12.
The search result Zexi found was actually a paid ad, and it is uncertain if he knew this at the time. But after seeing his pleas for help, the Chinese are enraged and are calling for an investigation into Baidu’s negligent regulation.
They are calling for Baidu to take responsibility in promoting medical facilities that have not been accredited. They have threatened to completely boycott the search engine, including its music streaming and maps.
As this is not the first time this search engine has caused an uproar in the Chinese community, experts believe Zexi’s story will negatively impact Baidu’s consumer base.
Their NASDAQ shares have already plunged 10% with the reports of this investigation.
Baidu has pledged to cooperate in the government’s investigation. They have also sent condolences to the Zexi family.