Thursday, November 08, 2007

Count On Yahoo!

To Sell You Out

Sometimes business just gets in the way of democracy.

Just ask the people running that second rate search engine Yahoo!

When they were confronted with the possibility of alienating a massive client--the People's Republic of China--Yahoo! decided they would be better served to hand over the information of a pro-democracy journalist than defend the principles our country was founded on. Well, why should they be the only one?

That journalist--Shi Tao--he's now serving a decade in prison.

Thanks, Yahoo! You jerks.

Yesterday, Yahoo's CEO Jerry Yang executive vice president Michael Callahan faced the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Al Jazeera English covered the hearing.

To Yang and Yahoo's partial credit, they apologized. Maybe Shi's mother can console herself with that apology while her son rots in a Chinese jail through 2015.

Committee chair Tom Lantos had the line of the century, but first he built up to it:
A company of Yahoo’s resources should have taken every conceivable step to prevent the automatic compliance with a request from the Chinese police apparatus.

To this day, Yahoo has failed to change any of its practices in order to prevent such collaboration.

While Mr. Callahan may not have known the relevant facts, other Yahoo employees, in fact, did know the nature of the Chinese investigation against Shi Tao prior to our committee hearing. (Yahoo’s actions were) spineless and irresponsible.

I do not believe that America’s best and brightest companies should be playing integral roles in China’s notorious and brutal political repression apparatus.

Much of this testimony reveals that while technologically and financially you are giants, morally you are pygmies.
In 2005, the Chinese government had Shi arrested after he posted a warning about a crackdown on Chinese dissidents returning to mainland China during the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Protests. Shi used his Yahoo email account to send a warning to the website for the Asia Democracy Foundation.

Beijing police found Shi by using information provided by Yahoo, the committee said.Yahoo's senior vice president Michael Callahan testified last year that Yahoo didn't know why the Chinese government asked the company for personal information about Shi.

In June, Shi's mother accepted the Golden Pen of Freedom on behalf of her son (video here).

Yahoo is trying to have a lawsuit filed in Northern California that accuses Yahoo of violating U.S. and international law when they provided the Chinese government with the information that led to the arrest of Shi and other dissidents.

The BBC looks at some of China's activists including Shi.

Amnesty International has a campaign on Shi's behalf here.

By the way something, if any pygmies were insulted by Lantos's line... I'm sure the Republicans will make him apologize real soon.

UPDATE: Turns out pygmy is a rather insulting term. I didn't know that. Thanks to Tireiron Chef for schooling me. I'd edit the post, but then you wouldn't know what this update was all about. Still Yahoo! are jerks and Lantos did a good thing by calling them out. Next time, just do what I do and call them assholes. You can do that on the floor of the Senate right?

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