Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Posted by Thomas Crampton

Three questions regarding the Committee to Protect Journalists today naming online journalist Shi Tao as a winner of the International Press Freedom Award.

His 10-year sentence to a Chinese prison came partly due to a disclosure about him by Yahoo!.

1- Do employees of Yahoo! feel responsible for/comfortable with this man going to prison? (Will they, for example, send care packages or join a letter-writing campaign petitioning the government of China for his release?)

2- How do users of Yahoo! feel about the company's privacy policies? (Or privacy policies of other Internet companies, for that matter.)

3- As a journalist who has had many police encounters in countries with nasty authoritarian dictatorships, I am always very concerned about the safety of those with whom I interact. Does online interaction lead to a sense of diminished responsibility? Do we need to see someone's face or visit their family at home to feel their pain?


Would you expect a Chinese company to act any differently?

Probably you would expect Chinese companies to follow Chinese laws and do the same thing as Yahoo China did, which begs the question of why you'd expect Yahoo China (a Chinese company) to martyr itself just because it's affiliated with a US company.

The privacy policies of Yahoo China are pretty clear, and he could have avoided this disaster by taking a bit more trouble to secure a more anonymous email address.

Of course, you can always rewrite US laws to force overseas affiliates to conform to US standards, but that would only have the effect of moving many international companies outside the US.

boo: It was Yahoo Hong Kong which disclosed the information, not Yahoo China. While Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997, they are still different systems. This could be construed as further evidence that China is not living up to its promise to keep Hong Kong unchanged for 50 years after the handover.

Question2 is good! But what I would like the generic community of Yahoo how they feel, knowing the fact that their info is readily being handed over on a golden platter to ay .gov agency (if requested) !!

amida: looks like we're now seeing the truth of China's "one country two systems" policy.

boo: you nailed it.

Thomas: lets clear up the confusion here, were talking about activities in what ammounts to a Stalinist country. The person in question is accused of breaking local law, Yahoo complied with local law by identifying him. Why is anyone acting like this is at all news? "Sun rises in East, film at 11"

Chris B: This is news because it is precident setting. Yahoo did not do enough to fight this and fell back on the lame "we obey the local law" excuse. Just because China has a history of oppressing human rights and jailing dissidents, does not mean that it will always be that way. It is the responsibility of freedom loving people and yes, companies, to push back against oppression. China needs to make progress on human rights issues and will make progress with pressure from its citizens and from others around the world.

China is going to play a much larger role in the world as it develops. It is in everyones best interest to see political reform in China.

FYI, China is a Maoist country not Stalinist.

Yahoo employees: Is there any internal debate within Yahoo about the plight of this journalist?

Post anonymously if you wish or send me an email offline. (I will not turn over your identity to the Chinese government or Yahoo.)

it must also be remembered that not all* domains are actually yahoo - quite often they are cobrands with one local portal or the other, with different corporate and other hierarchies. Yahoo China is actually managed and operated by local b2b portal

Here's Jerry Yang on why yahoo decided to partner with a local Chinese outfit and release management and operational control to them -

Hong Kong companies and residence do enjoy a certain greater degree of autonomy and freedom of speech than in the mainland, but if push comes to shove, it'd be great to remember something called article 23 of Hong Kong's "basic law" ..

The businessweek article about jerry yang and yahoo china somehow didnt get included in my earlier post - so here it is again

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