Yahoo, Accomplice to a Crackdown

YAHOO IS DEFENDING ITSELF as it gets lambasted by U.S. lawmakers for being complicit in the crackdown and imprisonment of a Chinese pro-democracy journalist (AP):

“While technologically and financially you are giants, morally you are pygmies,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, D-Calif., said angrily after hearing from the two Yahoo executives.

He angrily urged Yahoo Chief Executive Jerry Yang and General Counsel Michael Callahan to apologize to journalist Shi Tao’s mother, who was sitting directly behind them.

Shi was sentenced to 10 years in prison for politically “subversive” activities by the Chinese government after Yahoo handed over information about his online activities.

In addition to divulging information about Chinese citizens (Wang Xiaoning was similarly sentenced to 10 years in 2002 after the Internet company provided information to authorities), Yahoo has willingly tailored its search engine in China to filter responses to search terms like “democracy” or “Falun Gong”, doing their part to layer bricks in the Great Firewall of China. They have also engineered their photo-sharing site Flickr in such a way that residents in Singapore, South Korea, Germany and Hong Kong cannot access uncensored content.

And all along the way they’ve made pathetic excuses – this from a Wall Street Journal post back in 2006:

Yahoo’s Terry Semel faced tough questions from Walt Mossberg — and the audience — over the search company’s decision to comply with requests for user data from the Chinese government, which has used the information to pursue dissidents.

“I continue to be pissed off, outraged, and feel very very bad about it,” Mr. Semel said. “But you have to follow the laws of the country you’re in.”

Mr. Semel went on: “I don’t think any one company is going to change a country, and I dont think any one industry is going to change a country. ”

Grade A cop-out bullshit. Where is the sense of responsibility, of courage, of doing the right thing? Yahoo quivers at the thought of losing the Chinese market as though the rest of the world were not enough, and doesn’t hesitate to throw upstanding human beings under the rug if it means holding on to their investment. I’m glad they’re getting the verbal battering they deserve, but I question whether that’s enough.

RELATED NEWS: Chinese environmental defender loses appeal against concocted blackmail charges (TDT loses faith in humanity – see related post).

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1 Response to “Yahoo, Accomplice to a Crackdown”


  1. 1 Kango Suz November 6, 2007 at 7:42 pm

    It begs the question, whose jurisdiction are internet companies under? In the past they’ve been under the jurisdiction of their home countries, but this seems contrary. Yahoo wants to maintain it’s presence in China, a growing HUGE market, but perhaps it is not correct to do so by simply being complacent to human rights injustices.

    On the other hand, would Yahoo! have been held responsible if they hadn’t? In that case, perhaps they didn’t have much of a chance…

    Still, the international community can (and should) raise a substantive cry against the unjust imprisonment.


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