Kidney Stone Gate: Baidu Denies Censoring Search Results

Baidu logo: Baidu denies accepting money from Sanlu to censor negative search results.Soon after the Sanlu poisonous milk powder news came out, a copy of letter from the Teller public relations firm to the Sanlu Group began spreading on the internet. In the letter, Teller advised Sanlu to pay Baidu 3 million RMB to have Baidu manage search results containing negative news about Sanlu (supposedly not all news could be censored but most results coming from smaller websites could be deleted). When Baidu heard the rumors, they quickly denied working with Sanlu. A representative from Teller also said the letter was fake.

Sanlu Group logo: Sanlu is suspected of paying Baidu 3 million RMB to censor negative search results.On September 13th, “21st Century Economic Report” reported that Baidu admitted receiving a “Sanlu Public Relations Crisis Proposal” letter from a public relations firm, but Baidu could not confirm that it was the Teller firm.

The source also stated that although Baidu cannot confirm whether or not Sanlu adopted the public relations firm’s recommendations, Baidu has never entered into cooperation with Sanlu. “Right now, anyone can find in Baidu’s search results information related to Sanlu milk powder, Baidu did not delete.”

But this reporter discovered that all of the Sanlu news on Baidu only appeared after September 12th.  Using a widely circulated popular internet post title “Sanlu, please do not make excuses in the face of children’s lives and health” as a keyword search, September 12th afternoon: Google showed 11,400 results, while Baidu only had 11 results.

2008 September 12 afternoon Baidu search results for 'Sanlu makes excuses in front of children's health.'2008 September 12 afternoon Google search results for 'Sanlu makes excuses in front of children's health.'

September 13th morning: Google shows 11,800 results, while Baidu “shot up” to 54 results.

2008 September 13 morning Baidu search results for 'Sanlu makes excuses in front of children's health.'2008 September 13 morning Google search results for 'Sanlu makes excuses in front of children's health.'

Baidu also recently released a full statement. A summary of the basic points:

  • Baidu’s most important value is to seek truth from facts.
  • Baidu has major impact in the field of new meida.
  • Baidu received a fax from a public relations firm on September 9th, asking Baidu to help censor negative news about Sanlu.
  • Baidu “sternly rejected” the proposal because it “violated company regulations and principles of transparency.”
  • The public relations firm again approached Baidu on September 12th.
  • Baidu rejected them a second time.
  • In accordance with company policy regarding similar situations, only a few people in Baidu knew of the communications and repeated rejections.
  • “Facts speak louder than words, Baidu has provided objective, timely, and neutral comprehensive information to all internet users who care about this matter.”
  • Baidu is proud of how it handled the Sanlu incident.
  • Baidu again expresses its committment to its new media communication responsibilities of providing comprehensive, objective, and timely information in all major public incidents.
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Comments on Tianya, “From Baidu suddenly appears ‘Censorship Gate’?“:

Having seen Baidu being shameless, I never thought they could be this shameless, helping a villain do evil.
Look at Baidu’s medical disease name search, the first few results are all advertisements for bad hospitals and pharmaceutical factories! A lot of uncurable diseases, they all say can be cured!!! They actually put these kind of websites as the top results!!!
It will endanger countless gullible people.

September 12th at night, used “Sanlu kidney stones” keywords on Baidu search, only two pieces of information. The same keywords on Google search, over 18,000 results!
Are they censorsing, they certainly know!
Trashy Baidu!

Test #3:
“Sanlu children”
baidu: 76000
Fuck, no more testing, what is this?! Baidu!!!

For this to happen with Baidu is natural, it is “basic common sense” in the industry, Baidu’s growth history testifies to it all.
Usually, when there is a controversial incident, Baidu cannot be trusted, I usually always go on Google, Baidu is motherfucking disgusting. Let us see how Baidu explains this time.
“Sanlu, please do not make excuses in the face of children’s lives and health.”
Title test…
Baidu: 13 results.
Google: 11,800 results.
Haha, this game is really fun!

“Sanlu milk powder incident”
Baidu found about 100,000 related webpage results.
Google: 256,000 search results matching “Sanlu mik powder incident”

Baidu: ~100,000 search results for '三鹿奶粉事件'

Google: ~256,000 search results for '三鹿奶粉事件'

I just did the same search on Baidu and Baidu had 165,000 results. had about 321,000 results.

It is only because Baidu is a domestic company that I keep using it. Now seeing Baidu do this kind of thing, I feel very disappointed.
In the past, I would scold people who drove Japanese cars because I did not understand why they did not support domestic brands. But now I see, eating domestic brand Sanlu will poison me, using Baidu search will be censored, I finally understand. No choice!

Baidu’s Li Yan Hong is a small [bad] person! (looks are not bad, but is a traitorous type).
At the time, it was only because Google was blocked that they were able to build up.
What technology? It was all plagurized from Google.
Not to say that Google is good, but rather Baidu honestly is dirty.

I also just searched, and it is really true, everyone can verify. Looks like everything the LZ said is the truth, Sanlu really did pay 3 million RMB to have their public relations firm do censorship. Using Yahoo to search, you can find 1910 results, but using Baidu there are just 3 results, why? Anyone with a discerning eye knows with just one look. Do not use Baidu!!

Made a comparison. Nothing can be said! Baidu and Sanlu will abandon anything for money!

Google: 10,300 search results for '甘肃14名婴儿疑喝'三鹿'奶粉致肾病'

Baidu: 4 search results for '甘肃14名婴儿疑喝'三鹿'奶粉致肾病'

Currently, after two days, Baidu still only has 62 results while has about 22,000 results.

Do not drink Sanlu milk powder, do not search with Baidu.
If you cherish your life, refuse Sanlu; avoid deception, abandon Baidu.

Not sure how Baidu is going to explain to American shareholders that they accepted that money.

Many of the comments on Tianya are people comparing the different search results between Baidu and Google. Also on that topic was a poll. Here are the results at around 9:00pm September 16th:

1. Before the Sanlu incident, were you used to using Baidu or Google? (4,183 votes)

Other search engines.

2. Do you think Baidu took Sanlu’s money? (4,153 votes)

Yes, Sanlu information results from Baidu and Google are completely different.
Hard to say.
No, Baidu only received Sanlu’s public relations correspondence.

3. After the Sanlu incident, will you still use Baidu search engine? (4,127 votes)

Will not use, companies with a sense of justice is what China needs.
Does not matter, whoever has good search service, I will use.
Use, even though the Censorship Gate incident occurred, I still support the national brand.

As you can see, many Chinese netizens do not really believe Baidu and have lost confidence in Baidu. What do you think?


Do you think Baidu censored negative Sanlu search results?

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This is Part 4 of the the Sanlu Milk Powder Incident, see also:

Written by Fauna

Fauna is a mysterious young Shanghainese girl who lives in the only place a Shanghainese person would ever want to live: Shanghai. In mid-2008, she started chinaSMACK to combine her hobby of browsing Chinese internet forums with her goal of improving her English. Through her tireless translation of popular Chinese internet news and phenomenon, her English has apparently gotten dramatically better. At least, reading and writing-wise. Unfortunately, she's still not confident enough to have written this bio, about herself, by herself.

  • MJ

    Google is happy now!

  • Haha

    Different algorithms. Baidu is harsher on results without all words or in the wrong order for the character sequences that the engine identifies. When you search with tons of characters, baidu always gives less results than google. Someone needs to calm down. You think baidu is that stupid as to censor stuff when everyone in the nation already know.

  • mtm

    then Baidu better explain it better to the public. Because those poll results look like a boycott. Remember the “Carrefour boycott”? It’s consumer democracy in action. Economic freedom we DO have.
    Nevertheless, I have no doubt our highly principled Western friends who opposed that boycott will oppose this one too.

  • Kai

    @ Haha:

    That MIGHT be the case…but the circumstantial evidence looks pretty damning right now and, more importantly, it looks pretty damning in the eyes of internet users. Consider that the Baidu results suddenly started accumulating once the cat was out of the bag…something that people have likened to Baidu suddenly allowing the spiders to build up the index. As for whether or not they’re stupid, we need only look at Sanlu to see how stupid some people can be.

    @ mtm:

    I agree. If Baidu is innocent here, they’re going to have to do a far better PR job than they’re doing right now because they’re looking bad. On the other hand, I’m fairly confident Baidu will survive this and many Chinese will continue using it despite what they’re polling. If all else fails, the Chinese government can just accidentally block Google again. Wasn’t that how Baidu managed to take over the market leadership position in the first place?

    I don’t think a Baidu boycott is even remotely comparable to the Carrefour boycott. People wanted to boycott Carrefour simply because it was French, they couldn’t boycott Louis Vuitton, or they were ignorant. Baidu, if it gets boycotted, would be boycotted for a much more reasonable and legitimate reason: that it actively prevented people from finding information that was relevant to the lives of their babies. Our “highly principled Western friends” had patently good reasons to think the Carrefour boycott was stupid. There’s no reason for them to oppose a Baidu boycott stemming from disapproval of business practices that risk the public good. Don’t mix the two. They’re very different.

  • mtm

    @ Kai
    Oh, I agree that Carrefour wasn’t at fault, but it was a means of putting pressure on the French. I firmly believe that a grassroot based boycott of Carrefour did more to bring Sarkozy into line than any number of usual “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people” blather from Beijing. It’s also a good deterrent (杀鸡敬猴) against any other me-too China-bashing.
    I seem to recall an LV boycott was on the cards, or maybe just my wishful thinking, God I hate those ugly bags.

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  • Kai

    @ mtm:

    It was originally an LV boycott because someone in LV had personally donated money to the Dalai Lama. Nevermind that what a person individually does has nothing to do with LV as a company, many Chinese soon realized that not many of us can actually afford LV anyway. So, it was decided that a Carrefour boycott would make more sense, nevermind that Carrefour had nothing to do with LV or the Dalai Lama. The opposition to the Carrefour boycott (and original LV boycott) was the basic premise that it was misplaced anger and retribution.

    Boycotting and bullying Carrefour for what some unrelated individual protester did in Paris is similar to us blaming the cows for the melamine content in our milk. It is stupid. I think the Carrefour boycott idea was a monumentally immature and pathetic example of Chinese mob idiocy. Did it make Sarkozy supplicate? Maybe, but what are we? Children?

  • mtm

    Fair point, but maybe I am more ruthless than you are. Carrefour is Sarkozy’s problem.
    I supported the boycott simply because it gave us a voice, and face it, how much freedom political do you really have in China? Short of a massive campaign of civil disobedience, the boycott is the best pseudo-political weapon we have, and I would like dishonest businesses to feel it.

    What is the difference between “Mob idiocy” and the “Democracy”? Information. Blame those who control and corrupt information, not the “Mob”. I for one am gladdened that people have awaken from their usual apathy to express outrage at Westerners, Sanlu, Baidu whatever. You want to tame the “Mob”? Then give us the “credible” truth.

  • Kai

    @ mtm:

    Yes, maybe you are more ruthless. If so, then you can appreciate Free Tibeters trying to grab the Olympic torch from a wheel-chair bound woman, right?

    If not, then you’re every bit the hypocrite you accuse your enemies of. Plain and simple.

    Boycotts have their place. You want dishonest businesses to feel it. The question is whether or not Carrefour was a dishonest business or a victim of simply being associated with France?

    The difference between “mob idiocy” and ‘democracy” is that people in a democracy fight for credible information and institutions of recourse. People in a “mob” do not. Democracy is a system that organizes society. Mobs are an emotional outburst of a society. Chinese can certainly feel outrage when it is appropriate, but would do better to aim that outrage at the right targets WHILE seeking “credible truth.”

    Are you HONESTLY going to argue that the Carrefour boycott mob represented that?

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  • Haha

    “Consider that the Baidu results suddenly started accumulating once the cat was out of the bag”
    The increase in results of that long search term which increased from 11 to 54 demonstrates even more that Baidu didn’t censor. Since people posted about that exact term, of course the results are going to shoot up. People need to calm down. Just like the Police Killing incident happening right after Wengan and just like Carrefour boycott after torch protest, people take their anger out on whatever have connection with the thing they are angry about. Once they are angry with a domestic brand, like Sanlu, they start to become angry at all other domestic brands, like Baidu. This suspicion on Baidu is just as irrational and stupid as boycotting Carrefour for French participation on torch protest.

  • Haha

    Sorry, didn’t read your last comment before posting. You put it better than me.

    “aim that outrage at the right targets WHILE seeking ‘credible truth’.”

    Test out long search terms on Baidu. It will always turn up less results than Google. It’s sort of hypocritical if you support the mob anger against Baidu, but not the mob anger against Carrefour.

  • Kai

    @ Haha:

    I do agree with you that Baidu may have less but more relevant search results than so personally, I’ll stand by my contention that Baidu isn’t doing too hot of a PR job dealing with their circumstantial guilt. Again, that said, I doubt they’re going to lose their market dominance, especially with the illegal mp3 search being something of a core service they offer that few people are going to give up. Despite seeing Google do things that are at odds with their “don’t be evil” motto, I’ve seen Baidu do far more ethically questionable things that really bother me.

  • spacebeagle


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