Baidu invites China's cybercops to label, rebut fake Web news directly

Baidu said it would be allowing police agencies to monitor and respond to fake news, blogposts and other items across its services.
Baidu said it would be allowing police agencies to monitor and respond to fake news, blogposts and other items across its services.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - Baidu is building a system to allow China's cybercops to spot and fix "online rumours" deemed a threat to stability, allowing police agencies to insert themselves directly into everything from its search results to discussion forums.

The platform links 372 police agencies who will be able to use sophisticated artificial intelligence-driven tools to monitor and respond to fake news, blogposts and other items across about a dozen Baidu services, including the country's most popular search engine, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. 

In all, more than 600 organisations - including financial news media such as Caijing and medical platform dxy.cn - will be enlisted to weigh in on their respective fields, Baidu spokesman Whitney Yan said.

Internet giants from Facebook to Twitter are struggling to deal with a proliferation of spurious news articles across social media services.

Baidu's approach allows the Chinese government to intervene directly and write articles in rebuttal. Items that its system decides are fake will be clearly labeled a "rumour" at the very top of search results, alongside an explanation penned by the relevant agency or organisation, according to a sample page Baidu provided.

The same system will be employed across products from its news aggregator and online forums to Quora-like Q&A service, Ms Yan said, adding that the intention was to correct misleading information, not step up self-censorship.

The company's announcement comes days after Chinese cyberspace regulators upbraided and fined Baidu, Tencent Holdings, and Twitter-like site Weibo for broadcasting pornography, violent content and fake news. All three have said they will cooperate and remove objectionable material.

China is tightening scrutiny over domestic internet content in the run-up to an important Communist Party congress that is expected to consolidate President Xi Jinping's authority.

Intent on muzzling potential sources of disruptive information, the government has shut livestreaming services and websites, tightened regulations governing VPNs, and issued repeated warnings about the need to clean up content through various agencies.