By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Yahoo stands alone

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.

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1 Comment

  1. mike_b1

    This isn’t to let Yahoo etc off the hook, but I read the transcript of the hearings, and what I came away thinking is that Congress is hypocritical beyond words.Congress accused — literally — the Tech industry of fostering communism. And yet it was Congress (and the Bush Administration) that has ignored loud and long cries by Tech (and others) to press China on currency and other WTO obligations. Yahoo can’t coddle dictators. Congress can. That’s the real story.

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