Amnesty Intl Goes After Yahoo!
Amnesty International is putting pressure on Yahoo! to plead for the release of imprisoned Chinese journalist Shi Tao. Yahoo! released email account information that led to a 10-year prison sentence for Shi Tao after releasing government information to overseas news organizations.
Shi Tao sent emails describing the Communist Party’s directive that warned journalists not to stir social unrest by writing articles related to the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
Amnesty International has called for concerned world citizens to write letters to Yahoo! co-founders Jerry Yang and David Filo expressing their outrage over Yahoo!’s concession to the Chinese government.
In response to Amnesty’s criticism, Yahoo! replied that when the information was requested, the company was not informed of the nature of the criminal proceedings and release of the information was in accordance with the laws of the country.
“Yahoo! China received a valid and legal demand for information from PRC law enforcement authorities according to applicable PRC laws and the procedures we had established with Chinese law enforcement officials. As in most jurisdictions, including the United States, the Government of China is not required to inform service providers why they are seeking certain information and typically does not do so. In other words, we did not know whether the demand for information focus on murder, kidnapping, embezzlement or another crime,” reads the letter.
Further, Yahoo! maintains that the company is not obliged to choose which laws they can follow while doing business in China.
Amnesty International was unsatisfied with Yahoo!’s response, saying “the company has responded without addressing all the concerns raised.”
Google and MSN, as well as Yahoo!, have all come under fire from humans rights activists for bowing to the demands of the Chinese government by self-censoring search results. The companies maintain that their movements were in (regrettable) acquiescence to Chinese law, and that by allowing even limited access to their services benefits the Chinese people.
Critics are largely unimpressed, saying that the Internet companies should hold to their human rights beliefs and use economic leverage to influence the Chinese government. If for example, US businesses refused to business in the country, the money lost by the country’s economy could be persuasive.