Apart from the occasional brawl among legislators, domestic Taiwanese politics rarely seem to capture international attention. But a Taiwanese sex scandal involving a female politician has bucked this trend, topping a worldwide list of the most searched for topics at Internet search engine Terra Lycos SA.
Chu Mei-feng, the former chief of the Bureau of Cultural Affairs in Hsinchu, was secretly videotaped during a romantic liaison with a married lover at her apartment. In December, the sexually explicit video, which was recorded without Chu's knowledge or consent, caused an uproar across Taiwan when it was distributed on VCDs (video CDs) packaged with an issue of a Taiwanese tabloid magazine, Scoop Weekly.
The incident has sparked debate in Taiwan about the limits of press freedoms and, to a lesser extent, about attitudes towards women in Taiwanese society. But the scandal has also attracted the attention of Internet users from around the world.
After debuting at No. 45 on the Lycos 50 list on Jan. 15, searches for Chu rose 1,500 percent to top the most recent edition of the list, which was released on Jan. 22 and tracks search requests from Lycos users around the world. In addition, searches for Taiwan and "Taiwan news" rose 550 percent and 1,240 percent, respectively.
The surge in the number of searches for Chu overwhelmed the former No.1 search item, Japanese cartoon Dragonball Z.
The sudden rise in searches for Chu caught Lycos 50 commentator Aaron Schatz off guard. "We figured it would be one week on the chart for (Chu), then adios," he wrote in an analysis of the results. "Instead, (Chu) rocketed to the top of the Lycos 50 this week, with more than twice as many searches as perennial chart-topper (Japanese cartoon) Dragonball."
Searches for other popular topics, such as pop idol Britney Spears (No. 7), tennis star Anna Kournikova (No. 21), the Bible (No. 22), and bankrupt energy trader Enron Corp. (No. 25), also lagged far behind Chu on the Lycos 50 list.
According to Schatz, the largest number of searches for Chu that could be tracked to a specific country came from Singapore (23 percent). Search requests were also recorded from users in the U.S. (14 percent), Thailand (12 percent), Malaysia (4 percent), Australia (4 percent) and Spain (4 percent).
By comparison, only 1 percent of searches for Chu came from Taiwan, Schatz said.