China’s most popular search engine Baidu is under the cosh from netizens and CAC (Cyber Administration of China) after a university student Wei Zexi died while going through an experimental cancer treatment that was promoted heavily on Baidu. Wei was diagnosed with Synovial Sarcoma. It is a rare type of cancer and Wei decided to use an alternative and experimental treatment promoted by Baidu. The treatment was being done at the Second Hospital of the Beijing Armed Police Corps which was also advertised by Baidu.
The treatment that aims to use patient’s own immune system cells to treat Synovial Sarcoma cost Wei and his family 200,000 yuan but there was no improvement. Wei wrote a note on online platform Zhihu in February that reads, “Baidu, we did not know how much evil it could do.” After the Wei’s death, Baidu was put under pressure from both internet users and authorities. Baidu issued statements saying, “We have filed a request for the hospital to be investigated, and that it would fully support Zexi’s family should the investigation confirm malpractice at the hospital. We deeply regret the death of Zexi. May Zexi rest in peace,”
Now Chinese citizens and social media users are questioning the legitimacy of online advertisements. After the news came out, Baidu’s shares fell by 7.92% on Nasdaq. Baidu was criticised earlier this year as well when they allegedly sold a hemophilia related online forum to a private hospital that was unlicensed. The hospital used the forum to promote itself and deleted any negative comments.