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Baidu Censors a Bit Too Well

Baidu Censors a Bit Too Well

Today in international tech news: Chinese authorities arrest three employees from Baidu, China's top search engine, for accepting money to delete Internet posts. Also: A Web designer irks Ticketmaster; supporters of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad hack into a Reuters Twitter account; Australia could start holding companies accountable for what fans post on brand pages.

By David Vranicar TechNewsWorld ECT News Network
08/06/12 9:08 AM PT

China's government is all for Internet censorship -- but not like this.

Three employees from China's top search engine, Baidu, were arrested for deleting posts from its website in exchange for money, according to GlobalTimes.cn.

Those three employees were fired, along with a fourth who was fired but not arrested, according to Global Times.

Baidu confirmed that they have run into deleting-for-cash deals in the past, but this particular case was noteworthy for the amount of money being exchanged. The payoffs reportedly ranged in the tens of thousands of yuan. Ten thousand yuan equals about US$1,550.

Deleting Internet posts is, according to Global Times, big business in China. A Baidu search for "professional post-deleting" reportedly yields more than 1 million results. Global Times cites a staff member from a "post-deleting company" who said that the going rate for deleting an article from a forum is 1,000 yuan ($159) and deleting an article from a blog is 2,000 yuan. The source also said that it costs about 3,000 yuan, or $475, to delete news posted on a news portal.

Olympic Seat-Finding Twitter Feed Reinstated

A Twitter feed dedicated to finding empty seats for the London Olympics, @2012TicketAlert -- is back after being temporarily shut down, according to The Guardian.

The Twitter feed was set up by a Web developed named Adam Naisbitt, who hatched the idea after trying to get gymnastics tickets for his fiance. It operated by using session codes for more than 500 events and then automatically identifying changes in ticket availability. Once those changes were identified, a message was sent out via the Twitter account.

Naisbitt's feed helped tens of thousands of people find last-minutes tickets to the Games, according to The Guardian.

However, it was shut down last Friday by Ticketmaster servers designed to prevent people from trawling Ticketmaster databases for tickets.

That prompted protests from some 30,000 Twitter users who followed @2012TicketAlert.

Australia Deems Facebook Advertising, Creating Headache

Australia's Advertising Standards Board has ruled that Facebook is an advertising medium, a decision that will require companies to monitor comments posted by the public, according to Australian outlet The Age.

As a result of the ruling, companies must ensure that comments on their "brand pages" are not racist, sexist or factually inaccurate, according to the paper. Failing to do so could result in fines.

The Advertising Standards Board declared that industry codes apply both to what companies themselves post, as well as user-generated content, according to The Age. The board cited the case of Allergy Pathway, a health company that was fined for letting misleading testimonials remain on its Facebook and Twitter pages.

Reuters Twitter Feed Hacked

Supporters of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad hacked into Reuters' tech news Twitter feed, @ReutersTech, and tweeted pro-Assad propaganda, according to Mashable.

The Reuters account was renamed "@ReutersME," but the original name has been restored (and the pro-Assad tweets have been deleted).

The Christian Science Monitor also reported on the hacked account, quoting some of the propagandist tweets.

The attacks have been going both ways. Hacker group Anonymous reportedly logged into al-Assad's email account back in February.


Tech Trek is a blog that looks at tech news from around the world. David Vranicar is a freelance journalist currently living in the Netherlands. His ECT News Network archive, with links to articles and podcasts, is available here. You can email him at david.vranicar@newsroom.ectnews.com.



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