PART OF A massive cache of diplomatic cables from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing shows that Chinese regime “search engines apparently regularly accept money from corporate clients to suppress negative news in online search results.” The cable was sent in September 2008, at the height of China’s melamine-tainted milk scandal. It also includes information that the country’s most popular search engine and one of the worst corporate offenders in the melamine scandal colluded to suppress information about the scandal.
The cable states:
Embassy contacts say that while it is unclear whether Baidu and Sanlu are guilty of colluding to suppress information in this specific case, they nevertheless assert that, in general, major search engines in China do offer corporate clients a variety of means to censor negative information in exchange for cash.
Sanlu produced infant milk formula that sickened scores of infants. Some died from consuming the formula. Chinese nationals with corporate background who have been privvy to similar dealings were quoted as confirming the allegations of censorship. According to the cable:
A PRC citizen account manager at Fleishman-Hillard’s Beijing corporate communications practice, told PolOff that it is “normal practice for (Chinese) media to ban negative news for advertisement clients.” Huang noted that this “brand protection service” is not written into contracts, so it is “difficult to track.”…an American citizen and director of Ogilvy Pubic Relations China’s Digital Strategy group, told PolOff that although he had never seen evidence of a “smoking gun” implicating Baidu in this practice, he nevertheless said he believes that Baidu will “do just about anything for the right price, “including manipulating online search results. …a PRC citizen consultant at Ogilvy Public Relations, separately admitted to PolOff that two years ago she and her team at Ogilvy advised a major U.S. shipping client that they could pay Chinese search engines to censor news.