Roger L. Simon

Do You Yahoo? - The Chinese Secret Police Evidently Do

Greed is apparently infecting some of our best known American-based internet and computer comnpanies to the extent they may be becoming the enablers of fascism.

First we learned Microsoft was cooperating with Chinese authorities in suppressing words like “democracy” in Microsoft’s new blogging software. Now we learn the once-trendy Yahoo may be also helping out the Beijing Apparatchiks in an even more insidious manner. According to Reporters Without Borders, they have been aiding the Chinese government in revealing the identities of dissidents!

The text of the verdict in the case of journalist Shi Tao – sentenced in April to 10 years in prison for “divulging state secrets abroad” – shows that Yahoo ! Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd. provided China’s state security authorities with details that helped to identify and convict him, Reporters Without Borders said today.

“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,” the press freedom organisation said.

“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,” the organisation said. “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 ?”

Reporters Without Borders added : “Information supplied by Yahoo ! led to the conviction of a good journalist who has paid dearly for trying to get the news out. It is one thing to turn a blind eye to the Chinese government’s abuses and it is quite another thing to collaborate.”

Translated into English by the Dui Hua Foundation (which works to document the cases of Chinese political prisoners), the verdict reveals that Yahoo ! Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd. provided the Chinese investigating organs with detailed information that apparently enabled them to link Shi’s personal e-mail account ([email protected]) and the specific message containing information treated as a “state secret” to the IP address of his computer.

Whoa, if true, this is deeply abhorrent behavior for an American-based multi-national corporation. Reporters sans frontières continues further on:

Yahoo ! and Chinese censorship

For years Yahoo ! has allowed the Chinese version of its search engine to be censored. In 2002, Yahoo ! voluntarily signed the “Public Pledge on Self-Discipline for the China Internet Industry”, agreeing to abide by PRC censorship regulations. Searches deemed sensitive by the Chinese authorities such as “Taiwan independence” in Chinese into the Yahoo ! China search engine, retrieve only a limited and approved set of results.

For what it’s worth, Pajamas Media is now looking into what role we should be playing in this and how we should react. One thing is certain: no matter how big we become we won’t be signing the “Public Pledge on Self-Discipline for the China Internet Industry.”

UPDATE: I see Glenn is also concerned by this. We all should be.