For some years now, search engine controversies have been common place. As the 21st century began, controversy erupted over the issue of search engine censorship. In late 2005 and early 2006, Cisco Systems, Inc., Google, MSN, and Yahoo! came under fire for cooperating with the Chinese government in censoring Internet content or providing assistance to trace political dissidents who used the Internet in China. Reporters Without Borders, a France-based organization that promotes freedom of the press, accused Yahoo! of helping the Chinese government identify two dissidents through their Yahoo! e-mail accounts. One dissident, who posted essays on the Internet discussing political corruption in China, was sentenced to eight years in prison for “inciting subversion.” Another, who had used a Yahoo! e-mail to send information about the Tiananmen Square protest, was sentenced to ten years in prison.
In February 2006 a congressional committee, the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations, heard testimony on the issue. The subcommittee heard reports that Google’s search engine in China filtered out certain search terms, such as human rights and Tiananmen, and that MSN had shut down a Chinese citizen’s blog at the request of the government and disallowed blogs on its MSN Spaces servicing China that contained terms forbidden by the Chinese government. Cisco Systems was criticized for providing hardware used to filter, or censor, Internet information. All four companies defended their practices by saying they were forced to abide with Chinese laws. Company representatives also stated their belief that it was the role of government, not business, to promote democracy and human rights in China. Google’s representative said the company found it an unsatisfactory compromise to create Google.cn but decided it could make a “meaningful, though imperfect, contribution to the overall expansion of access to information in China.” The chair of the House subcommittee, Representative Christopher H. Smith, a Republican of New Jersey, said he would introduce legislation called the Global Online Freedom Act to restrict an Internet company’s ability to censor information regardless of another country’s laws. Search Engine Controversies stem from either manipulation of users to achieve some sort of profits or stifling of competition as some search engines has been accused in the past.