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Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang speaks in front of the parents of a jailed journalist  (Source: AP)
Yahoo executives again receive abuse over the company's role in Chinese politics

Two Yahoo officials yesterday went to Capitol Hill to defend Yahoo's actions regarding the jailing of Shi Tao, a Chinese journalist accused of leaking state secrets. Tao is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence stemming from pro-democracy efforts that landed him in hot water.

Republicans and Democrats grilled Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang and Yahoo general counsel Michael Callahan during the three-hour session over Yahoo's actions in China.

"While technologically and financially you are giants, morally you are Pygmies," said Rep. Tom Lantos, House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman.

With Tao's family sitting in attendance, Yang apologized to the family and the committee, while promising to help try and get Tao released from prison. The wife of imprisoned Chinese dissident Wang Xiaoning, was also present to speak during the hearing yesterday.

Tao was arrested and placed in jail after Yahoo China voluntarily turned over information to the government three years ago. Wang Xiaoning used a Yahoo account in 2002 to "advocate open elections" in China, which led to an eventual prison sentence.

"I am very happy that I saw and I heard the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and other congressmen criticize and condemn Yahoo for having lied to the Congress," said Gao Qinsheng, Tao's mother.

As Yahoo, Google and other search engine companies try to tap into the booming Chinese Internet market, they've had to agree to censorship and other rules that would likely be impossible in the United States. For example, Yahoo was strongly criticized last spring after turning over Internet records to the Chinese government -- which led to imprisonment and torture.

Yahoo is now working on different methods to ensure user data does not end up in the hands of repressive regimes in other nations.

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By JasonMick on 11/8/2007 9:29:34 AM , Rating: 2
Two ironies here:
First--Yahoo China is not directly owned/managed by Yahoo. Yahoo essentially sold this resource to Asian company Alibaba (see my article today).

Secondly--Its not like Google etc. aren't doing the same thing. All the major search engines are cooperating with the Chinese government's censorship efforts. Its easy to whistle and turn the other way, but it seems apparent Yahoo is no more guilty than Google, etc., when it comes to cooperating with the Chinese government's less than savory side.

I'm no big Yahoo fan, but I feel Congress calling them "moral pygmies" is making them the whipping boy for search engines in China. Scapegoating is not going to help solve this problem.

RE: Ironic
By TomZ on 11/8/2007 9:36:18 AM , Rating: 4
I agree with your theme, however, what Yahoo did was beyond just censorship. If I understand the situation correctly, they voluntarily gave information that led to the jailing these people.

If this information is true, then I think Yahoo deserves more criticism than Google et al.

RE: Ironic
By OrSin on 11/8/2007 1:34:13 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry but the US has no right to just on people for stuff like this. I'm sure they has gotten similar information from email account using thier secret warrants. How many have be we locked up without even a trail. Not saying either country is right but the US is full of crap when tell other countries how to treat their citizens. Any one heard of Jena.

RE: Ironic
By derwin on 11/9/2007 10:45:45 PM , Rating: 2
lol, yeah, can somebody say National Security Letter?

RE: Ironic
By Oregonian2 on 11/8/2007 1:52:03 PM , Rating: 4
It was voluntary in the sense that the Chinese government didn't send in troops, take over their datacenters, and extract the information themselves. The government there asked for information that Chinese laws required them to provide. Yahoo complied with local laws.

What Yahoo was lambasted for was their not deciding to themselves become martyrs for the cause of justice. Of course, this criticism was coming from people who weren't themselves the ones in China who would go to jail for refusing to do what the Chinese law required. Armchair martyrs. I don't think going to jail for human rights was in the job description when the employees signed on with Yahoo.

RE: Ironic
By derwin on 11/9/2007 10:48:58 PM , Rating: 2
NSLs require the same "voluntary" release of info - not troops, just laws.

At least we are complaining about this happening somewhere else. Perhaps it might even draw attention to similar actions here. Don't criticize someone for pointing out a flaw, even if they are flawed themselves.

RE: Ironic
By Drexial on 11/8/07, Rating: 0
RE: Ironic
By Drexial on 11/8/2007 10:16:33 AM , Rating: 2

damn the lack of an edit button...

RE: Ironic
By Suomynona on 11/8/2007 11:45:20 AM , Rating: 2
We may have a ways to go with regard to crowd control during protests, but I would hardly compare rubber bullets to Tiananmen Square or the jailing of people for ten years for their beliefs.

RE: Ironic
By jskirwin on 11/8/2007 11:52:02 AM , Rating: 2
when our policy is "your either with us or against us".

So China's oppression of free speech = what in America?

Last I checked there is an American candidate for the presidency calling for the impeachment of the Vice President - yet Kucinich isn't in jail. I daily read opinions calling Bush "Hitler" and equating my country with Nazi Germany, yet these voices aren't silenced. Step foot on any American college campus and you will hear much worse.

This guy was calling for a free election and got 10 years for it. Morally equivalent?

You got a bad case of

RE: Ironic
By MaulBall789 on 11/8/2007 6:04:26 PM , Rating: 2
You're right, these people are not in jail... yet. Fast forward 20 years and a few administrations down the line and I wonder if the same could be said. If the GOP and DEMS view each other as evil incarnate now, I can't imagine how bad it will be then. I certainly wouldn't put it past either of them.

Feudalism makes a comeback! Only one law, might makes right. Less confusion. Higher property values. Everyone (not burned at the stake) wins!

RE: Ironic
By AntiM on 11/8/2007 11:27:02 AM , Rating: 4
I'll tell you what's ironic to me. Yahoo was scolded for cooperating with the Chinese government while Chinese goods are pouring into our ports and off the shelves of Walmart stores. Every time you buy a Chinese made product, aren't you guilty of supporting an oppressive regime? I'm pretty sure it was all show on the part of the U.S. Government, especially since a lot of politicians are somewhat funded by the Chinese.

RE: Ironic
By Buspar on 11/8/2007 11:51:48 AM , Rating: 2
The true irony is that the same politicians who go on about the "Rule of Law" are the same ones telling Yahoo they shouldn't respect the law of other countries.

They're probably arguing that US law is the only one that matters, indicating that provincialism is alive and well in the halls of Congress. The sooner our leaders understand respect for the sovereignty of other countries (i.e. their right to make their own laws and the responsibility of all entities in that country to obey those laws), the sooner America will earn back some of its positive global image.

RE: Ironic
By ted61 on 11/8/2007 12:20:39 PM , Rating: 2
Doesn't Yahoo do the same thing with their records in the USA. I remember when Google was in trouble for not giving up data to the US Government because "all of the others did".

Politicians :< sheesh.

RE: Ironic
By jskirwin on 11/8/2007 1:11:19 PM , Rating: 2
The sooner our leaders understand respect for the sovereignty of other countries (i.e. their right to make their own laws and the responsibility of all entities in that country to obey those laws),

You realize that by your logic the Buddhist monks gunned down in Burma in September deserved it - as did the American Civil Rights marchers who got beaten up and jailed during the 1960s. Slavery would still exist in Saudi Arabia, and South Africa had the right to jail Nelson Mandela. Genocide in Sudan? No worries - all A-OK with you since these countries were all acting accordance of their own laws.

And you probably consider yourself "liberal." Sounds reactionary to me...

RE: Ironic
By Buspar on 11/10/2007 5:27:20 AM , Rating: 2
There's a difference between understanding that a country can set its own laws and agreeing with them. In the case of the Affirmative Action march suppressions, those were clearly wrong, but that didn't give another country the right to threaten military action against us or to tell its citizens to ignore our laws when they're here.

The proper mechanism for changing a country's behavior is through trade and diplomacy. So if a country has a law or takes an internal act you disagree with, don't give them money, or give money to political groups in the country who share your views. For example, apartheid was ended largely due to internal pressures that were assisted by economic pressure from sanctions, not by the US telling our corporations not to obey South African laws.

What we have here is a case of wanting it both ways: the US needs American companies to operate in China to take advantage of its economy. Yet politicians don't want to see those companies conform to laws they think are immoral. The solution is not to ignore the Rule of Law, as these congressmen seem to be arguing for, but to either pull out completely or bite the bullet and cooperate. (In light of America's economic dependency on trade with China, the latter is probably the only feasible choice.) The views they've expressed in this case are hypocritical and bad policy, which was the point of my original post.

And you probably consider yourself "liberal." Sounds reactionary to me...

No, I have never considered myself "liberal." Not even close. And I am not being "reactionary," just anti-inconsistency, which something our government is rife with.

RE: Ironic
By erikejw on 11/8/2007 8:14:59 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe the US needs to scold itself some too :)

In reality
By FITCamaro on 11/8/2007 9:28:44 AM , Rating: 2
There's very little these companies can do. When operating in a country, you have to abide by its laws. It doesn't mean they're ethical or right, but they're the law. The question that it comes down to is, are the billions of dollars to be made worth the sacrifices in freedom you have to agree to to do business somewhere?

RE: In reality
By wallijonn on 11/8/2007 9:50:19 AM , Rating: 2
The question that it comes down to is, are the billions of dollars to be made worth the sacrifices in freedom you have to agree to to do business somewhere?

So long as it's someone else's hide the answer is always yes if even $1 can be made. Unfortunately Yahoo's actions may be in contradiction to America's political agenda - Democracy. As such they could be seen as traitors by the powers that be.

RE: In reality
By MaulBall789 on 11/8/2007 10:30:33 AM , Rating: 2
Get over yourself. If the United States government "asked" Yahoo to fork over information on a "dissident" American citizen to potentially send said person to Gitmo for "stress testing", do you think they would have a choice? Did the telecoms have a choice? Absolutely not. They were told hand over the information or else.

RE: In reality
By Suomynona on 11/8/2007 11:48:01 AM , Rating: 2
AT&T should be condemned as well, although I don't know that there's evidence that they caused anyone to be put in jail for thought crimes. AT&T did have a choice to fight the NSA's requests, but they were also too spineless to do so. Neither of the two companies have any morals.

RE: In reality
By jskirwin on 11/8/2007 1:05:32 PM , Rating: 2
You guys are equating guys plotting terrorist attacks with a man calling for free elections, you realize that don't you?

When Ann Coulter or Noam Chomsky are imprisoned for their beliefs, I'll worry. In the meantime you guys need a reality check, geez...

RE: In reality
By MaulBall789 on 11/8/2007 5:47:27 PM , Rating: 2
That's essentially my whole point. China considers a man calling for free elections a terrorist. Who's to say that a less than honest US government wouldn't pick up a Joe or Jane Blow off the street just because of their too hard to the Left or Right political views. Yahoo, Google, etc. funnels all internet communications through the fed, phones all warrantlessly tapped and if you speak out too far in any one direction the feds come and get them, call them terrorists, and we never see them again. Who's to stop them? Hardly any evidence needs to be shown. How would this make us any better than China?

These laws (and I mean the Patriot Act and Warrantless Wiretapping) in the hands of honest and true people in positions of power certainly can be used to serve the greater good and catch the real terrorists. But we all know politicians on both sides that are not the most honest or trustworthy people, not to mention the people who influence (lobbyists) or work for them. They can use the laws to settle political grudges. That is what worries me.

Which Congressman said that?
By theapparition on 11/8/2007 1:20:40 PM , Rating: 2
Which one stated that Yahoo has the morals of a "pygmy"???

Was it the one looking for gay sex in the bathroom? Maybe the one trying to seduce young pages/interns. Was it the one who had bribery cash in the freezer. The one who takes special "gifts" from lobbyists? Was it the one who was against gay rights, yet turned out was gay himself. Was it the one who cheats on his wife (oh wait, isn't that all of them!). Or was it just the idiotic adulterous drunk, Kennedy. How about all of them who promise the world during elections with no intention of delivering.

Hello kettle, this is look very black today.

Maybe they should take a look at themselves before pointing the finger.

By MaulBall789 on 11/8/2007 5:49:56 PM , Rating: 2
LOL, Thankyewverymuch....

Bravo Yahoo
By bringthefiery on 11/8/2007 5:05:46 PM , Rating: 2
This will get a lot of people riled up but I totally support Yahoo! in voluntarily giving up the information.

Think about it if the tables were reversed and some gigantic Chinese IT company had information that the US government wanted. In that case you would all be totally irate if the Chinese IT company did not comply. A company has to comply with the rules and regulations of the country it is operating within.

The obvious, and weak, counterargument is that the Chinese government is oppressive and "wrong", as if America deserves its own pedestal apart from the rest of the world.

RE: Bravo Yahoo
By winterspan on 11/9/2007 3:44:41 AM , Rating: 1
Usually I would take the time to write out a well-informed rebuttal to why you are a moron. But I'm tired and it's late, so I'll get right to the point.


So basically....
By iFX on 11/8/2007 10:27:20 AM , Rating: 2
The Fed is angry with Yahoo! for following the laws in a country it operates in? Hmmm...

If someone was transferring state secrets OUT of the US via Yahoo! you can bet we would want that info ASAP.

It's Pretty Sad...
By jskirwin on 11/8/2007 1:17:16 PM , Rating: 2
How threads like this become a mixture of Libertarians who back the amoral actions of business and anti-American Leftists who instinctively back whomever the US government criticizes.

Whatever happened to the concept of "Human Rights"? Oh, that's right... Since everything's relative now they no longer exist.

And god forbid we stand in the way of profit no matter how moral - or immoral - it is. I'll have to send a copy of Atlas Shrugged to the crack dealer down the street - of course he probably already has one.

By blackseed on 11/8/2007 1:20:24 PM , Rating: 2
The two chinese gets 10 years or so in jail and Yahoo gets slap on the wrist.

"Folks that want porn can buy an Android phone." -- Steve Jobs

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