Evan Osnos: Chilling Effects
One of the central arguments offered by China’s official technologists is that Google is being hypocritical: in the U.S. and other countries, they say, Google routinely coöperates with the government to censor objectionable material, and they cite as examples child pornography in the U.S. and Nazi rhetoric in Germany. But some key details seem to be getting muddled. For instance, Professor Fang Binxing, the president of Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications and a top technology-policy adviser, made the following point on state television last week:
Internet censorship actually exists all over the world. Google conducts a program [in the U.S.] called “Chilling Effects”… What is the program? Every organization, including government agencies, can complain to the “Chilling Effects” group by identifying information that is hazardous, saying you can not allow it to appear again, such as child pornography or racial hatred or defamation…. Then this organization, with universities and organizations involved to help judge, will put it in a database and submit that to Google. If they think you are right, then Google will filter out that information. And if you search for it again, you will find some of the search results—thanks to the “Chilling Effects” program—will not be displayed.