Executive Summary: Any company that indulges in acts that appear to our blinkered western eyes as being contrary to human rights and that claims that “they had no choice, they were only obeying local law” is lying. The choice they made was to choose the profits available by entering into that local market.
Boing Boing’s Xeni Jardin has an LA Times op-ed on war, blogs, news, and profit. She doesn’t think too much of Yahoo:
Their new venture:
Yahoo launched “Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone,” pledging to send the former television reporter to “every armed conflict in the world within one year” and dispatch blog-sized “bites” of war.
Their recent behaviour:
[A]s the 37-year-old married reporter behind the numeric pseudonym ‘198964’ learned, he shouldn’t have assumed that Yahoo defends press freedom. When Chinese security agents asked executives at Yahoo Holdings (Hong Kong) to identify the man, they did so. Police grabbed him on a street, searched his house and seized his computer and other belongings, according to documents filed in his defense.
Mr. ‘198964,’ whose real name is Shi Tao, is serving a 10-year jail sentence for ‘divulging state secrets abroad.’ Bloggers, human rights groups and journalism organizations, including PEN and Reporters Without Borders, condemned the action.
Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang brushed off responsibility. At an Internet conference Sept. 10 in Hangzhou, China, Yang said Yahoo and other U.S.-based multinationals ‘have to comply with local law.’
Or else what? They lose access, that’s what, which means losing profits.
Shi Tao’s attorney, Guo Guoting — who was detained, placed under house arrest and shut out of his office before his client’s trial — argues that the company has a greater obligation to international law than to local law. ‘China is a signatory of the [U.N.] International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,’ Guo told the Hong Kong independent daily Epoch Times. ‘Shi Tao … was legitimately practicing his profession, not committing a crime. The legal entity of Yahoo Holdings [Hong Kong] is not in China, so it is not obligated to operate within the laws of China or to cooperate with Chinese police.’
She doesn’t think much of either:
Yahoo’s latest experiment reveals that it considers war news just another form of entertainment. This from an online giant that has already shown it is cavalier about press freedom and a friend of oppression.