BEIJING, Sept. 3 (Xinhua) -- China's popular search engine, Baidu, has come under fire, after a letter revealing that the company's employees were being paid to delete internet posts, was published online recently.
The news, which revealed that a number of the employees had been arrested in connection with the claims, has attracted the attention of internet users across the country.
"Four members of staff were accused of involvement in the deletion of posts for money. Three of whom were suspected of accepting bribes." Yang Chuntian, director of Baidu's Professional Ethic Construction Department, confirmed that there had been a letter revealing how a number of Baidu staff had been detained following suspected paid post deletion.
"One of them was an administrator at Baidu Tieba, which is an online community bound tightly with Baidu internet search services. This employee had an administrator account. When he took money, he authorized an outsider to delete posts. Numerous posts were deleted," Yang Chuntian explained the details of one of the cases.
"The employee confessed to accepting 67,400 yuan( more than 10,000 U.S. dollars) in bribes. We know the actual figure involved in the profit chain could be a lot higher, much more than that," Yang said.
Baidu Professional Ethic Construction Department deals with issues relating to professional ethics, and is responsible for investigating and handling rule violations. The letter circulating on the internet was penned by a Briefing of Professional Ethics Construction issued by this department.
When searching on the internet, tens of thousands of companies claim they can delete online posts for a number of websites such as Sina, 163, ifeng; popular internet communities such as mop, tieba and microblogs such as Sina weibo and Tencent weibo, charging between 600 and 5,000 yuan.
An employee of the website called "internet crisis PR" said many of these internet so-called PR companies had connections with administrators and editors of a number of website, which enabled them to be able to delete posts via simple interest exchange.
"The deletion of posts can only be achieved via illegal techniques, just like hackers attack servers. The only other alternative is that they have insiders working at the website who are able to delete posts," said Gao Zelong, assistant to the Secretary General of iTrust League in the Internet Society of China.
Besides employees in internet companies, moderators of major BBS or Tieba are also of significant in post deletion.
Le-Shuai-Bu-Shuai has been the moderator for a column called "Chinese Women's Volleyball Team" in a BBS for the past six years. But he is not the only person working for this site. There are also two other moderators and 10 deputy moderators who have the power to delete posts.
"Although moderators have a lot of power, some websites, such as Baidu, fail to play an active role in the supervision of its site," said Le-Shuai-Bu-Shuai. "If deputy moderators delete a post illegally, moderators will be able to know this. However, if the moderators delete a post themselves, no one would ever find out. It's the moderators who are responsible for the successful deletion of posts."
Baidu, on the other hand, doesn't have any detailed regulations on post deletion, therefore moderators are required to make their own judgments on what should be deleted.
Le-Shuai-Bu-Shuai said that the procedure for deleting posts is straight-forward, and any Tieba user can inform Baidu of an inappropriate post. They simply log in to the Tieba report center, fill in the provided report forms and submit the report. Once the rule violation of certain post is confirmed, this post will be deleted.
The profit chain of paid post deletion has exposed the existence and prevalence of internet corruption.
"Externally, we can use laws and regulations to prosecute these misconducts committed by illegal internet PR companies," said Zhao Zhanling, counselor of Credit Appraisal Center in the Internet Society of China. "Internally," Internet companies should optimize management of their companies. The power employees have should be restricted and supervised. Also, companies should guide their staff through establishing company values and ethics."