Yahoo Named In Chinese Torture Suit

    April 20, 2007

Search engine companies get sued all the time, but it’s usually about a patent dispute, a site’s ranking, or something else relatively mundane and white-collar.  Not so in this case: Yahoo is being sued under the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victims Protection Act.

No one’s suggesting that some Yahoo exec pulled out the needle-nosed pliers, though – instead, Yahoo has been accused of providing the Chinese government with information that led to a man’s arrest and torture.  And it’s actually the man’s wife, Yu Ling, who is behind the suit, as her husband, Wang Xiaoning, is currently serving a ten-year prison sentence in China.

As one might expect, emotions are running high.  “I feel very angry,” said Yu, as reported by The Age.  “Yahoo betrayed my husband for their business interests.  They literally destroyed my family.  All my husband did was express his political views.”

Yet the search engine company seems to have washed its hands of the whole situation.

According to an official statement, “[T]he concerns raised about the Chinese government compelling companies to follow Chinese law and disclose user information are not new.  Companies doing business in China must comply with Chinese law or its local employees could be faced with civil and criminal penalties.”

And so, however regrettable their situation may be – and despite the support of the World Organization for Human Rights USA and Reporters Without Borders – Yu and Wang aren’t expected to have much luck in the American court system.  Still, as Techdirt’s Mike Masnick pointed out, the lawsuit “could be much more effective just in shaming Yahoo into adjusting its practices in giving up the private info of Chinese users.”