Chinese search giant Baidu is locked in a war with state-run China Central Television, and the broadcaster is stepping up its efforts to discredit the Internet company with disparaging reports and a targeted website, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The conflict stems from a recent investigation led by CCTV that accuses Baidu of failing to properly check up on companies illegally advertising drugs on its site. Until now, Baidu has been seen as a government favorite due to its willingness to comply with Chinese censorship regulations.
In recent days, CCTV has aired multiple reports criticizing the company. One report featured a professor claiming that Baidu was profiting from traffic to forums in which users mocked him and other famous people with “slanderous” comments. In another CCTV spot, a reporter attempted to register as a Baidu advertiser with someone else’s identification documents, and succeeded.
CCTV also launched a website dedicated to “Building Trust on the Internet” in which it claims to shine a light on illegal Internet activity. But the site is mainly a vehicle for attacking Baidu, asking users questions like “What do you think of the presence of fake information in Baidu's promoted links?”
For its part, Baidu seems to be cooperating with CCTV’s investigation. On Wednesday night, CCTV read a statement from Baidu, saying that it is looking into the allegations and plans to “seriously deal with behavior that violates the company's system.”
While it’s not exactly clear what’s behind CCTV’s attacks, says the WSJ, it could be that the broadcaster is attempting to boost support for search engines recently launched by two state agencies, the Xinhua news organization and the People's Daily newspaper. Some analysts also suggested that CCTV’s criticism of Baidu could stem from the government’s desire for greater control over the Internet, which is currently dominated by private-sector companies.