Chinese Social Networks Block Baidu Search Spiders

By Sep 15, 2008, 3:47 PM Author's Blog  

Baidu.com (BIDU), the top Chinese search engine, has been blocked by major social networking services [SNS] websites in China, inlcuding Blog.sohu.com, 51.com, Xiaonei.com and Hainei.com. According to reports, E-commerce auction site Taobao.com, a subsidiary of the Alibaba Group, has also taken measures to block searches conducted by Baidu.

The social networking websites decision to block Baidu, which controls 60% of China’s search market share, is made on the argument of protecting users who have created original profiles for private audiences and blogs. Since SNS sites are based on a real-name system, they don’t want the automated bots from the search engines crawling the sites and indexing their information. These portal and social networks claim that these actions pose a serious invasion of their users’ right to privacy.

In the majority of cases, websites that have records of users’ private details will set a code in order to prevent search engines spiders from crawling. A few search engines however, will not observe these standards such as the observation of the robots.txt rule. Consequently, SNS websites have to block them in order to protect the privacy of their users. But the reality is that while the Chinese search engines might be ignoring these robots.txt files, many Chinese websites themselves appear to have a complete disregard for their users’ data.

While the SNS sites decision to block Baidu, as they say, is based only on the premise of the users’ rights to privacy, analysts say their motivation comes primarily from Baidu’s dominant position. Furthermore, serious invasion of the users’ privacy suddenly appears to be an issue in China!.

Instead of blocking the search engines, the managers of these Chinese websites can easily implement privacy protection measures that are widely available. Facebook, for instance, has created a successful model in refusing most search engine queries.

Paul Denlinger, owner of China Business Strategy said: “I find this excuse”, referring to user privacy in China, “a real stretch and this sounds much more like a desire to dial back the power of Baidu and its search. [Via Chinalyst]

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