If you want to censor the Internet in China, you'd better be a part of the government, or else you might get arrested and then fired like the three Baidu workers accused of deleting posts for pay. The story of the four fired workers is interesting not because of the fact people were scrubbing posts for money -- according to The Wall Street Journal's Paul Mozur, that's nothing new -- but because censorship is already such a common practice in China, and Baidu is such an active part of it. But the company and the government don't like employees to act as censors on their own.
The CEO of Baidu, the search engine and Web-services company often described as the Chinese equivalent to Google, has previously admitted that the company cooperates with the Chinese government in blocking search terms deemed too sensitive. Last year, a group in New York sued Baidu for helping censor pro-democracy speech on behalf of the Chinese government. In 2009, a company guideline with instructions on how to monitor and censor Baidu content leaked onto the Chinese blogosphere.
Clearly, Baidu is no stranger to meddling with content. It just doesn't want its employees doing it without the company's oversight -- and neither does the Chinese government. Three of the four fired employees were fired for removing posts people had paid to have scrubbed. A fourth was fired but spared from arrest because she hadn't yet done anything illegal, The Journal's Mozur reports. But Mozur notes the arrests will likely not lead to any shortage in those willing to delete posts for a very modest fee:
A search for such services turned up hundreds of thousands of responses on Baidu and other Chinese search engines. One service, geared toward removing negative reviews of products, promises users they can pay after the targeted post is deleted. Another site charges 35 yuan to 45 yuan, or roughly US$5.50 to US$7, per modified or deleted post.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.