The Bureau of Energy of the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) recently bought up 92 keywords in order to direct Internet users toward an MOEA website that boasts the government is working to "ensure nuclear safety and gradually cut back on nuclear power". Unfortunately the ministry has picked up a bit of unexpected feedback as a result of its purchase. In addition to a number of celebrities like Ke Yi-cheng, writer Giddens and nuclear expert Lin Tsung-yao, the links also included Liu Li-er, Jay Fang and several other well-known anti-nuclear figures, stirring up a great deal of controversy among the public.
Weng Su-chen, who oversees the Bureau of Energy’s website, explained that the keyword buy-up was intended to make it possible for Internet users to access the website from different angles using various keywords. The links would lead them to the MOEA site with its information on nuclear safety and steady reduction of nuclear power, with news on people, events (Fukushima, for example), and other relevant items.
Weng stressed that there were no "targeted" names on the list and that clicking on a few relevant keywords would not affect the content and progress of their search efforts if they did not click on anything else on the website.
As for the controversy over the links, Weng said that naturally people will complain. She noted that various groups use provocative content to attract public attention, but official government sites like the bureau’s webpage are intended only to provide information to the public. She added that if the government does nothing it will be criticized for just sitting on its hands, putting agencies like hers in a difficult position.
The 92 keywords purchased by the Bureau of Energy included terms like nuclear energy, nuclear power plant, nuclear fuel, escape ring and Mothers Monitoring Nuclear Power, and there were also names of frequently mentioned Individuals in discussions of nuclear issues. She said the names of both pro and anti-nuclear celebrities were on the keyword list.
The Bureau of Energy confirmed that the budget for the first wave of keyword buy-ups was NT$100,000 and more purchases may be made in the future depending of the effectiveness of the publicity. The price was fairly cheap, the bureau claimed, working out to a charge of NT$3 to 5 per click-through for traffic of about 33,000 users, via portals including Google, Yahoo! Kimo and other search engines.
A number of names including Liu Li-er and other anti-nuke figures were quietly dropped from the list Tuesday, and a spokesperson for Yahoo! Kimo said the company could not comment on individual customers’ actions. Weng noted that as of Tuesday evening the bureau had not received any messages or phone calls from anyone protesting the keyword links or asking that their names be removed from the list.