Hudong Baike has apologised for allowing fake content to be posted on its online encyclopedia platform. The apology followed an exposé by state broadcaster CCTV, which deemed it “the biggest fake advertisement landfill.”

On Wednesday, CCTV slammed the for-profit social site – which claims to be the biggest Chinese encyclopedia site in the world – on the “3.15 Show,” an annual program that exposes bad business practices and aims to educate viewers on their rights as consumers.

It found that advertisers can pay to create entries about special products or biographies on Hudong’s platform.

Hudong Baike “claims to be a knowledge sharing platform, but behind it are shady dealings – not only is it hard to determine if the information is true or false, sometimes it is even a magnifier of fake information,” it said.

By paying 4,800RMB (HK$5,402) for a “Baike entry verification” service, a CCTV reporter was able to post an entry about a fictitious product that was previously not approved.

A customer service representative said that users can create their own entries for free through the site, but entries created by the reporter about fictitious products were not approved until they paid the verification fee – even though they were not able to supply all the necessary documents.

Photo: Hudong Baike.

CCTV found entries on strange products including a verified post on a supplement called Very Algae 5s, which claimed to be a cancer cure. A product testimony suggested that a liver cancer patient’s cancer cells disappeared after taking the supplements for a week, according to CCTV.

The page for Very Algae 5s is no longer available on the site.

Other fake medical information was also found on the website, the broadcaster said.

Cached version of Hudong Baike’s entry on Very Algae 5S. Photo: Screenshot.

The local branch of the Beijing Administration for Industry and Commerce responded on the same evening by heading to the company for an inspection, the Beijing Morning Post reported. Staff at the administration collected financial numbers, data from the back end of the system, contracts and receipts, as well as screenshots of the website.

Hudong also issued its apology that evening, saying that the company has formed a committee to upgrade its standards for verifying its content, alter its review process, and take down entries and ads that fail to meet requirements.

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Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.