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Yahoo - Sells Its Soul for a slice of the Chinese Pie

This is a commented mini-portal to matters related to the despicable behaviour of Yahoo in relation to their co-operation with the totalitarian government of the Peoples Republic of China. Microsoft have already shown themselves equally contemptuous of the concepts of civil liberty and we'll no doubt have cause to come back to them some other time, but even they haven't yet been directly responsible for one of their customers being locked up for 10 years for being an opponent of the Chinese government.

If ever you needed proof that we cannot trust these corporations and that they will always be prepared to sell us out to either governments or the highest bidder, the story detailed by the links on this page should provide it. I am personally boycotting Yahoo and all I can do is ask you to consider doing the same. Personally, I think we should also be campaigning to persuade athletes to boycott the 2008 Peking Olympics unless China implements, irreversibly, some major reforms to its civil liberties and human rights practices. That page will no doubt appear in the near future.

Meanwhile, back at Yahoo, the stories below the petition link sum up the action to date:


The Story, Link and Extract (all emphasis added)
My Comments (if any)
Boycott Yahoo Web Petition Go sign the damn thing!

Even Congress Doesn't Believe Yahoo!

(lifted from the Physorg article above - emphasis added)

This undated file photo, released on Nov. 22, 2005 by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) shows Shi Tao, a freelance journalist for Internet publications and an editor for the Chinese business newspaper Dangdai Shang Bao. A House committee chairman Monday Nov. 5, 2007 angrily rejected Yahoo Inc.'s explanation for why it provided incomplete information to Congress about its role in the arrest of a Chinese journalist. "Yahoo claims that this is just one big misunderstanding. Let me be clear -- this was no misunderstanding," said Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, D-Calif. "This was inexcusably negligent behavior at best, and deliberately deceptive behavior at worst." (AP Photo/Committee to Protect Journalists, File)

Well well well. When they can't even get the United States Congress to turn a blind eye to their support for a foreign police state, their credibility really must be shredded. Excellent news.

Yahoo, Jailed Journalists Settle Lawsuit

"...reeling from a growing backlash over human rights and its China operations, settled a lawsuit Tuesday that accused it of illegally helping the Chinese government jail and torture two journalists.

Neither side disclosed details other than to agree Yahoo would pay the attorneys fees of Shi Tao and Wang Xiaoning and the family member who sued on their behalf. Yahoo also said it would "provide financial, humanitarian and legal support to these families."

It marked a dramatic change of heart for Yahoo, which had steadfastly maintained it had to comply with a request from Chinese authorities to share information about the online activities of the two Chinese nationals.

clearly the public tongue-lashing they received in Congress has had some effect. In apologising to the relatives, I'm sure they'll have said something like "It (paying the legal fees) is the least we could do". And I'm sure it was...

Yahoo! seeks dismissal of China human rights lawsuit

Yahoo! has asked a US court to dismiss a lawsuit accusing it of "aiding and abetting" acts of torture and other human rights abuses against Chinese dissidents. The company handed over information about its users to the Chinese government, which led to the arrests of the dissidents.

Yahoo! is fighting a suit was filed by the Washington-based World Organization for Human Rights, on behalf of several plaintiffs. They include Chinese journalist Shi Tao, who was locked up for 10 years after being accused of leaking state secrets to foreigners and Wang Xiaoning, jailed for "incitement to subvert state power" through his postings on Yahoo! Groups.


Microsoft, Yahoo! and several blogging services last week signed a pact with the Chinese government that "encourages" big name web players to record the identities of bloggers and censor content. According to the French advocacy group Reporters Without Borders, the agreement stipulates "self-discipline". Translation: to store the real names and contact details of Chinese bloggers and delete "illegal and bad" information from user comments. you can see - 2 years later and nothing has improved. And still the sheeple support - and thus endorse - the Yahoodlums in their unprincipled rush for profit.

Yahoo Says It Gave China Internet Data (Washington Post Sept 11 2005)(local)

A co-founder and senior executive of Yahoo Inc., the global Internet giant, confirmed Saturday that his company gave Chinese authorities information later used to convict a Chinese journalist now imprisoned for leaking state secrets. The journalist, Shi Tao, was sentenced last spring to 10 years in prison for sending foreign-based Web sites a copy of a message from Chinese authorities warning domestic journalists about reporting on sensitive issues, according to a translation of the verdict disseminated by the watchdog group Reporters Without Borders.

Speaking at an Internet conference in this eastern Chinese city, Yahoo's co-founder, Jerry Yang, said his company had no choice but to cooperate with the authorities.

"To be doing business in China, or anywhere else in the world, we have to comply with local law," Yang said, responding to a question about his company's role in the case. "We don't know what they want that information for, we're not told what they look for. If they give us the proper documentation and court orders, we give them things that satisfy both our privacy policy and the local rules."

"I do not like the outcome of what happens with these things," Yang added. "But we have to follow the law."



Quite. But you don't have to do business with totalitarian bullies. And we don't have to do business with you.

Privacy International Calls for Yahoo! Boycott over Chinese Co-operation (PI Website 7 Sept 2005) (local)

Human rights watchdog Privacy International has called for a worldwide consumer boycott of Yahoo, which has today been implicated in the imprisonment of a Chinese journalist. According to documents released by Reporters Without Borders, (local) Shi Tao was jailed for ten years after Yahoo had provided the Chinese government with details of an email he had sent to Western media. Privacy International's director, Simon Davies, said the actions of Yahoo were reprehensible. "This is a disreputable episode. Western companies are increasingly cutting deals with the Chinese government to serve their shareholders' interests at the expense of ethical governance".



No Excuse For Being an Accomplice (Foreign Correspondent's Club Hong Kong - 4 Oct 2005) (Protest letter to Yahoo) (local)

The Foreign Correspondents' Club, Hong Kong, is deeply distressed by Yahoo's compliance with requests from unknown mainland authorities to hand over information regarding the personal emails of our professional colleague, journalist Shi Tao, and we wish to express our displeasure in the strongest terms.
This attempt to seek cover beneath compliance with the rule of law is as unworthy as it is unpersuasive, and in no way addresses the questions of professional ethics and corporate conscience that should arise whenever a request for the provision of personal information is made.



American companies must never check their morals at the border of lucrative foreign markets. (Houston Chronicle Editorial 2 Oct 2005) (local)

What is truly appalling about this episode is that it was a Chinese subsidiary of the American Internet search company Yahoo that directly enabled Shi's prosecution. Yahoo employees, when called on by Chinese authorities to identify the sender of the anonymous e-mail, promptly turned over account information that led police to arrest Shi this past November. Yahoo's shamefully thin defense was that the company is obligated to comply with foreign laws that govern their international operations.


China intensifies its clamp down on journalists (Boxun News - English Version 29 Sept 2005) (local)

It is clear that the Chinese government has embarked on a disturbingmission to suffocate any form of government criticism,



Not everyone is opposed to Yahoo's actions. Business Week weighs in with this snivelling corporate defence (he said, objectively)

A Cooler Look at Yahoo in China (21 Sept 2005) (local)

It's important to note that Yahoo had no information about the details of the probe

No it isn't, asshole. It is difficult to justify breaching privacy under any circumstances.

There may be a consensus that, if a prima facie case has been made that the perpetrator has committed a serious or capital offence (Murder, rape etc), then one might be justified in yielding to the authorities. Even then, the private data should only be released under the control of a trusted Key Escrow system with ultimate appeal to a Jury of citizens. When you don't even know why they're asking, they should simply be told to fuck off. If you can't face doing that, or it's too dangerous to do that, then get the hell out of the country. You don't sacricifice your customers for the sake of your business. That is another capital offence.

A Cooler Look at Yahoo in China (local) No this is not a duplicate. This is Yahoo's own coverage of the story on the same date as Business Weeks.. Amazing coincidence about the title though, isn't it. And the content...

Just following orders in China (LA Times 14 Sept 2005) (Local)

IMAGINE WHAT would have happened if during the 1980s an American communications company had provided information that allowed the South African government to track down and imprison an anti-apartheid activist. That is pretty much the moral equivalent of what Yahoo has just done in China in the case of journalist Shi Tao. And the California-based Web giant deserves the same kind of public opprobrium that would have fallen on any Western firm that dared to publicly cooperate with the enforcers of apartheid.

China's model for a censored Internet (Christian Science Monitor 22 Sept 2005) (local)

Some worry China's controls could be copied elsewhere.

Which - if you need a reason for self interest - is as good as any. If we don't even protest at what these parasites are doing over there, then our own governments will begin to believe that they might get away with this kind of abuse over here.

Remember September 10 2001. (Reporters Sans Frontieres undated)(local)

Everyone talks about 11 September 2001, the fateful day we were all swept up by a threat which spared nobody, not ever the all-powerful United States. But we should remember the Internet as it was before that day to realise how far the rights of its users have been eroded by the war on terrorism. is becoming more and more difficult for Internet users in China to fight the surveillance systems set up by the government (with the help of US companies) to stifle the Internet.

A useful reminder of the context in which Yahoo (and others) have succumbed to authoritarian pressures around the world. Well worth following the links from this page.

Investment funds and analysts to monitor what Internet firms do in repressive countries (also from Reporters Without Borders 7 Nov 2005)(local)

(Reporters Without Borders) wrote to Yahoo in July 2002 asking it to explain why it helps Chinese government agencies responsible for censorship. The California-based corporation has for years agreed to censor the Chinese version of its search engine so that, for example, searches for such word strings as “Falungong” or “human rights in China” will display content from official sources only. Reporters Without Borders also tried to get in contact with Cisco Systems, Yahoo ! and Microsoft in December 2003 in the hope of being able to talk about the consequences of their activities for freedom of expression. Our letters received no reply.

So they got together with some ethical investors and drafted a statement...

...The statement has already been signed by 25 investment firms managing some 21 billion dollars in assets. Reporters Without Borders hopes that other investment companies will join this initiative, especially traditional funds that do no specialise in ethical investing. The organisation meanwhile deplores the lack of interest shown by European socially responsible investment companies, of which so far only one has agreed to sign.


The encouraging aspect of this story is that it shows that there are some "ethical capitalists" and thus it is not just down to us as consumers to apply the pressure. However, knowing that, it gives us all the more reason to make more noise and make the less ethical capitalists realise that failure to address these concerns is, eventually, going to start hitting where it hurts - on their bottom lines.

Yahoo! link confirmed in second Chinese dissident case

Court papers about cyberdissident Li Zhi confirm that Yahoo! collaborated with the Chinese authorities, according to media watchdog Reporters Without Borders. Yahoo! and local competitor Sina both provided evidence that allowed the Chinese to imprison Li.

This story of second proven victim surfaced in Feb 2006, together with reports of up to 81 other dissidents being held for similar reasons and based on similar provision of private data - not necessarily from Yahoo; other commercial suppliers are equally guilty, but most of them are Chinese, not Western and thus - unlike Yahoo - have no real choice.


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First Uploaded 7 Oct 2005

Most recent amendment 30 Aug 2007

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