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Yahoo in China human rights case

BBC | August 28, 2007

A human rights group in the US is suing Yahoo for alleged complicity in rights abuses and acts of torture in China.

The World Organization for Human Rights says Yahoo's sharing of information with the Chinese government has led to the arrests of writers and dissidents.

One journalist cited in the case was tracked down and jailed for 10 years for subversion after Yahoo passed on his e-mail and IP address to officials.

Yahoo insists it must comply with local laws in areas where it operates.

But it acknowledges that providing Chinese officials with information has enabled them to make arrests.

In a statement, Yahoo said it supported privacy and free expression and added that it was working with other technology companies to find a way to address human rights concerns.

De-listed sites

The human rights group has brought the case in San Francisco on behalf of the journalist, Shi Tao, and another named Wang Xiaoning.

The men's defence lawyer said Yahoo should have asked the Chinese government why it wanted information about the two men before handing it over. He said Yahoo had failed to live up to its ethical responsibilities.

The BBC's David Willis in California says the case has prompted debate about the responsibility of US internet companies to protect the anonymity of users in the countries in which they operate.

Strict laws exist in China to regulate the internet. Shi Tao was jailed for posting comments critical of government corruption on the web.

Yahoo is not the only internet company accused of collaborating with Chinese authorities. Rivals Google freely admit to blocking politically sensitive items on their China website.

Whole websites - including media sources - are eliminated from Yahoo and Google in China.

De-listed sites are skipped over when the search engine trawls the web for results.

The internet firms argue it is better to offer Chinese users some information than none at all.


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