China’s Baidu Exposes Prostitution Businesses Hiding in Map Service

Internet giant Baidu is aiding authorities in uncovering the numerous prostitution venues that are being hidden under the guise of “massage” or “sauna” services. Baidu map’s location-based service has been prone to being utilized by illegitimate businesses with the help of middlemen.

According to SCMP, there are numerous instances of prostitution rings found within the popular mapping service, but most of these are using legitimate business names as a front. The source mentioned that there are about 2,604 results in Baidu maps for the terms “sauna” and “massage.”

However, most addresses of these so-called legitimate establishments are actually fake and middlemen handle the phone calls for these illegal businesses. A middleman named Li Jing revealed to the Chinese state-owned Legal Daily (via SCMP) that the deceivingly false addresses of these venues are due to “safety concerns.”

Li himself admitted that he was in charge of handling more than 20 of these venues and it was their job as “PR’s” to lead potential customers to the real address. For instance, a reporter claimed that a venue on Baidu listed as “Venice Sauna Bath Club” was actually a front for a bordello.

These places even charge varying prices for “different levels of women” where prices can even go as high as 2,498 yuan ($374). Furthermore, the source claimed that each middlemen needed to meet a quota of 400 customers per month in order to earn their monthly income of 20,000 yuan ($3,002).

Internet giant Baidu maps are now taking these illegitimate business venues out of their service on the grounds of providing “fake information” that could affect user experience. Meanwhile, the recent crackdown places Baidu in a favorable position following their previous controversial debacle on their social media platform Tieba.

According to CNBC, Baidu was under investigation after being suspected of “violating cyber-security laws” and that they “did not fulfill duties to manage information published by their users.” There were also other major Chinese social media platforms that were investigated under the same grounds as well including WeChat and Weibo.

Feature Image via Flickr/Jon Russell (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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