By Aharon Etengoff |
Chicago (IL) – Yahoo is currently hosting a summit on business and human rights at its Sunnyvale campus. Journalists and social entrepreneurs from Africa, Asia and the Middle East are expected to discuss how they have used the Internet and social media to “support free expression and drive social change.”
“Yahoo was founded on the belief that access to information can enrich people’s lives, and we hope this summit and our other initiatives will both stimulate greater awareness about free expression issues and bring others to this important cause,” explained Yahoo VP Michael Samway.
According to Reporters Without Borders, Yahoo has allowed the Chinese version of its search engine to be censored “for years.” In 2002, Yahoo voluntarily signed the “Public Pledge on Self-Discipline for the China Internet Industry,” agreeing to abide by PRC censorship regulations. Searches considered “sensitive” by the Chinese authorities reportedly retrieve only a limited and approved set of results.
In addition, Yahoo! Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd. provided China’s state security authorities with details that helped to identify and convict journalist Shi Tao – who was subsequently sentenced to 10 years in prison.
“We already knew that Yahoo collaborates enthusiastically with the Chinese regime in questions of censorship, and now we know it is a Chinese police informant as well,” Reporters Without Borders claimed in 2005 statement. “Yahoo obviously complied with requests from the Chinese authorities to furnish information regarding an IP address that linked Shi Tao to materials posted online, and the company will yet again simply state that they just conform to the laws of the countries in which they operate. But does the fact that this corporation operates under Chinese law free it from all ethical considerations? How far will it go to please Beijing?”
Tom Lantos, the former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed similar sentiments in 2007.
“These were demands by a police state to make an American company a co- conspirator in having a freedom-loving Chinese journalist put in prison. Will you continue to use the phrase `lawful orders,’ or will you just be satisfied saying `orders’? While technologically and financially you are giants, morally you are pygmies,” added Lantos.
We asked Yahoo: “We were wondering if the conference will address the company’s role of cooperating with the Chinese government to censor certain aspects of the Internet.”