Yahoos Double Standard: France Vs. China

    January 13, 2006

Yahoo has a double standard. A federal appeals court dismissed a lawsuit by the Sunnyvale portal powerhouse, filed to try and keep a Paris court from enforcing a $15 million fine for displaying Nazi memorabilia for sale on Yahoo’s auction site. This is a violation of French law and shows a different game than Yahoo dealing with China.

In the suit, Yahoo asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to rule the fine for running the Nazi memorabilia couldn’t be collected in the U.S. because it violated the company’s freedom of speech rights. The court dismissed the suit in a lengthy decision.

Thursday’s 99-page decision failed to address one main question regarding whether U.S.-based ISPs are liable for damages in foreign courts for displaying content that is illegal abroad it legal in the U.S. While some have made much of this story, the answer is moot. The reason is because Yahoo set up a business office in Paris.

If one goes to Yahoo! France’s site and looks through the information section, one can find the “Contacts” section of their information. Clicking on this will give contact information for Yahoo! France and it’s in Paris. There’s an address and phone numbers. There’s also contact information through emails.

While my knowledge of business certainly isn’t as great as many, in most cities, setting up a business requires licensing of some sort. Tax information is required at all levels, certainly for the city and the nation. Since Yahoo set up their French division, then one can assume that part of this process is agreeing to follow French law. They were trying to use the U.S. government to get out of the law they violated. The courts of France levied a fine of $15 million and Yahoo should pay it.

The other side of this is the nasty double standard Yahoo is demonstrating. While they seek help from the U.S. government to keep from having to follow France’s laws, they are willing to out journalist-critics of the Chinese government in order to keep from irritating the Chinese government, stating they have to follow Chinese laws to do business in China. Huh? Why are they applying different standards to two different countries?

Yahoo’s caught a lot of grief after they turned over information to the Chinese government, allowing the Chinese to arrest a researcher at the New York Time bureau in Beijing for the blog he maintained. In as much France violated Yahoo’s free speech, Yahoo helped China violate freedom of the press, a recognized freedom in the U.S.

The point is this: Yahoo is trying to tell the French government where to go by filing the suit in the U.S. Chances are they’ll pay the fine in an effort to smooth things out but there was virtually no fight against the Chinese government. The journalist is now enjoying quality service at a Chinese penal facility for a political crime. France just asked them to pay a fine and $15 million is chump change for a multi-national, multi-billion dollar tech company. If Yahoo’d told the Chinese government to go EXPLETIVE DELETED themselves when they asked for help on the journalist, Yahoo would’ve been on the fast boat from China.

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John Stith is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.