Baidu Hit With Lawsuit Over Gay Conversion Search Results

Beijing-based Web services company Baidu is facing a lawsuit after it displayed search results from a clinic that falsely claimed it could make gay men heterosexual, MarketWatch reports.

The 30-year-old plaintiff, who is identified by the alias Xiao Zhen, is suing Baidu and the Chongqing-based Xinyupiaoxiang Clinic. According to MarketWatch, the clinic was the first result displayed by Baidu after Zhen searched for "gay treatment," but the clinic did not have a legitimate psychiatry license and administered electroshock treatment as part of its conversion therapy.

MarketWatch also reports that Baidu said the clinic had a business license for psychological counseling and the difference between counseling and treatment is hard to distinguish.

In addition, the MarketWatch story says Baidu doesn't differentiate between paid and organic search results, unlike other search engines like Google.

In an email, a Baidu rep says the search engine is not commenting on cases that are still in the legal process, but notes the MarketWatch piece has "many inaccuracies," including the above statement.

"This is simply not true," the rep writes. "Baidu very clearly distinguishes between paid and organic results: Paid results are either in the right-hand column or at the top of the page marked by the word 推广 [sponsored links] or with a color undertone."

Zhen is suing for more than 10,000 yuan ($1,620), MarketWatch reports. A verdict is pending.

In March, Google encrypted search hit China in an effort to combat online surveillance. Google pulled most of its operations out of mainland China in 2010 in part because it didn't want to censor user searches or present alternative search results that were government approved and, as of March, its search share in China was at about 5 percent.