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China's official online database of court rulings briefly censored by glitch at search engine provider Baidu, which has fixed the problem

·2 min read

Baidu, operator of China's top internet search engine, said it has fixed a technical glitch that temporarily censored search results on China Judgments Online, the country's official database of rulings that is under the Supreme People's Court.

The incident became public early on Monday when users of Baidu complained about failing to get any search results from China Judgements Online, which serves as the archive for the largest collection of judicial decisions in the country.

There was a software bug that caused the temporary removal of search results from the affected website, according to a statement from Baidu. The Beijing-based company said the issue was resolved by noon on Monday.

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China Judgments Online was designed to improve public confidence in the country's judicial system by offering unprecedented levels of transparency online. It was launched in 2013 as part of a "smart court" initiative to use technology to modernise court procedures and strengthen oversight of judges.

The facade of China's Supreme People's Court building in Beijing. Photo: Handout alt=The facade of China's Supreme People's Court building in Beijing. Photo: Handout>

The glitch that affected China Judgments Online reflects how Baidu continues to be perceived as the most restrictive online censor in the search arena.

For better or worse, Baidu became so widely used by 2006 that it overtook Google as China's biggest search engine operator. Google exited the Chinese market in 2010 for refusing to accept the country's censorship requirements.

The latest incident, however, followed the recent action taken by the branch of the Cyberspace Administration of China in northern Liaoning province, which warned the Supreme People's Court-run China Judgments Online about violating undisclosed internet rules and regulations, according to local media reports earlier this month. The move came as a shock in China because it showed how a local internet censor could be so powerful that it can warn a website under the highest court of the land.

Millions of documents - comprising mostly criminal cases and all death penalty verdicts issued by the Supreme People's Court - had earlier been removed from China Judgments Online because of a "migration" process, according to a report by the South China Morning Post in June last year.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2022 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2022. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.