Why an untrue story about Chinese Internet censorship in the U.S. went viral and was so believable

    A bombshell report earlier this week alleged that a U.S. based company called XYZ.com partnered with the Chinese government to ban any one in the world from using certain web addresses that they deem “politically offensive.” The list of words banned from being used was reported to total as many as 40,000 and included words such as “liberty”, “freedom” and “democracy.”

    The story turned out to be (mainly) false as xyz.com’s CEO issued a prompt rebuttal correcting the details in an attempt at clearing his company’s connection to any nefarious worldwide censorship acts with Beijing.

    The only remaining question: Why was such an outrageous story so believable in the first place?

    First, censorship and suppression of speech is alive and well in China, and XYZ.com will still censor Chinese Internet users at the behest of Beijing. But a bigger reason this story grew legs is that we are seeing frighteningly similar efforts by even freedom-loving governments around the world, and even here in the U.S., to gain tighter control over the free-wheeling Internet and start regulating what we can read and watch on the Internet.

    A few weeks ago, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Germany’s President Angela Merkel were caught on an open mic (someone needs to give the open mic an award for all it’s done for democracy) discussing how Facebook could ban posts critical of Merkel’s immigration policy.

    Here in the U.S. we know about efforts by our government to track our communications, catalog where we spend our time online and we have seen federal agencies lay the foundation to regulate what we read and watch on the Internet.

    Under the laughable guise of protecting Internet freedom, the Federal Communications Commission recently passed its “Title Two” rules, giving it direct control over the Internet’s private networks for the first time.

    And our Federal Election Commission has been trying for the past year to pass new rules to regulate online speech – speech that several online prognosticators point out could effectively ban popular news sites like the Drudge Report.

    I have spent many years working with conservatives, free marketeers, and Libertarians in the United States to maintain limited government and empower this nation’s best asset, its people, to thrive. As a young advocate I rely heavily on a free and open Internet to share my ideas, shed light on the inner workings of government agencies and amplify the voices of grassroots activists. I cannot stand by and silently watch government mute the most powerful tool for making our voices heard.

    This is why I am so thrilled to join the Protect Internet Freedom team to build a coalition of Americans who are sick and tired of governments encroaching on our online freedoms. Thankfully, the story about XYZ.com was false, but the fact that it was believable and widespread in a short time demonstrates that efforts to thwart free speech aren’t just confined to places like China anymore. They are happening with increasing frequency in supposedly democratic countries around the world, including, sadly, our own.