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Baidu medical forums closed to businesses

2016-01-13

2016-01-13 00:24:52 GMT2016-01-13 08:24:52(Beijing Time)

China's search giant Baidu called an end to business collaborations in its disease-related online forums on Tuesday following a recent scandal over a forum manager's pursuit of profit from posting advertisements.

"The [operation of] Baidu Tieba, online forums run by Baidu, will only be open to authoritative public service organizations rather than to those seeking business opportunities," read a statement from Baidu sent to the Global Times.

The supervision of disease-related forums' operation is particularly important, as many patients discuss and share diagnoses and treatment options on the boards, the statement said.

Baidu's statement came after members of the hemophilia forum lodged complaints that the board had been sold to a private hospital that promoted itself in the forum and allegedly banned the forum's original operators from posting.

Baidu replaced the operator of the hemophilia forum with Hemophilia Home of China (HHC), an NGO dedicated to helping hemophilia patients, making HHC the first NGO to run a disease-related forum, Baidu said.

"The operator of the hemophilia forum should be an objective and professional nonprofit organization, instead of a stakeholder," Guan Tao, founder of HHC and a hemophilia patient, told the Global Times.

Noting that China currently has 100,000 hemophilia patients, Guan said that the participation of professional public organizations could provide patients with better medical information, so it is worth promoting Baidu's collaboration with professional NGOs in the running of its forums.

According to Guan, the private hospital which bought the forum was known for defrauding hemophilia patients through traditional Chinese medicine treatment.

"Many patients I know who visited the hospital ended up experiencing deterioration of their conditions," Guan said.

In a post on the forum early on Tuesday, the forum's management team said that it has taken back control of the space from the previous buyer. Many of the forum's 8,793 current members congratulated the team on the announcement.

To prevent people from posting false information in exchange for profit, Guan said that HHC will advocate for members' awareness of such information and will only provide government-recognized medical information to patients.

The hemophilia forum is not the first disease-related forum to have experienced this problem, as members of the high blood pressure and thyrotoxicosis Baidu forums also reported that their boards had been sold to companies seeking profit.

Baidu Tieba has a total of 1 billion active registered members in 19 million different forums.

The search giant also reached forum operation cooperation agreements with several other public organizations, including China Charities Aid Foundation for Children.

Baidu was also accused of allowing private hospitals to attract patients through paid listing services that directed Internet traffic to the hospitals' websites.


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