None of the Internet companies called before Congress this week to defend their business practices in China deserves a good-conduct medal. But distinctions are important. Which leads Media Nation to ask: Isn’t Yahoo’s behavior quite a bit more troublesome than that of Google, Microsoft or Cisco?
The latter three companies stand accused — all right, are guilty — of enabling the Chinese government’s censorship laws by blocking terms such as “democracy” and “human rights.” But only Yahoo, as far as we know, turned over information that enabled the Chinese authorities to arrest a dissident. According to Reporters Without Borders, Yahoo’s actions led to the 2003 arrest of Li Zhi, an anti-corruption crusader who was handed an eight-year prison sentence. The Paris-based organization adds that Li Zhi is not alone in being victimized by Yahoo’s rapaciousness.
What’s more, according to this article in USA Today, Yahoo, by turning over a majority share of its Chinese operation to a Chinese company, may have insulated itself in a way that is truly sleazy. (Disclosure: I own a few shares of Microsoft.)
Yahoo’s actions strike me as magnitudes worse than those of the other companies. By lumping them all together, I fear we may lose sight of exactly how awful Yahoo’s behavior has been.