Chinese Political Prisoner To Yahoo!: Do You Hate Me Now?

Filed as General on April 19, 2007 11:44 pm

A long, long time ago on a blog post far away Yahoo! decided to expose its users to the wrath of the red dragon lest it get burned in China’s backyard.

Well, apparently they are now beginning to reap what they have sown, as one of the prisoner’s family has filed a not too friendly lawsuit against the search engine prince (as Google is King).

(Taipei Times) A Chinese political prisoner and his wife sued Yahoo in federal court yesterday, accusing the company of abetting the commission of torture by helping Chinese authorities identify political dissidents who were later beaten and imprisoned.

The lawsuit, filed under the Alien Tort Claims Act and the Torture Victims Protection Act, is believed to be the first of its kind against an Internet company for its activities in China.

Wang Xiaoning (王小寧), who, according to the lawsuit, is serving a 10-year prison sentence in China; his wife, Yu Ling (余陵); and other unidentified plaintiffs seek damages and an injunction barring Yahoo from identifying dissidents to Chinese authorities.

When I first heard about Yahoo! handing over personal info to China, I was pretty much shocked since I was already using several of their services. When I informed my friends in China about this incident (as everyone on the mainland “enjoys” filtered media), Yahoo! wound up with a few less members.

Although Yahoo! is replying with the standard “we must obey all local laws,” ect., ect, that excuse has not prevented their rivals like Google from giving governments the third degree (as opposed to their users receiving it from big brother).

Yahoo!’s problem in the market in my honest opinion doesn’t have to do with bad marketing, bad products or even bad management. It has to do with mainly users trusting you with their information.

If a company is willing to hand out personal info to a government that is not known for displaying mercy towards dissent, then why would I trust them with email, images or even advertising?

Hopefully this family receives some sort of compensation from the Yahoo! corporation, because choosing to fight a lawsuit like this could not only result in a backlash from the blogosphere, but from the general market as well.

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  1. By charles liu posted on April 20, 2007 at 2:19 am
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    Say, is anyone suing Blackwater? I heard the Chinese courts will take on cases by Abu Gahraib and Guantanamo torture victims.

    Is there any impetus to demand Blackwater to evaluate their corporate policy of actually torturing people?

    While Yahoo had no choice regarding laws of the land in China, Blackwater actively sought out and participated in US government’s global human rights abuse.

  2. By Darnell Clayton posted on April 20, 2007 at 8:44 am
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    Hey Charles,

    Whether or not you consider the US war on terror a “human rights abuse,” I’ll leave up to you.

    But regardless of the case, that doesn’t justify Yahoo!’s actions. A similar statement could have easily been said of companies cooperating with the Nazi’s in WWII.

    Two wrongs don’t make a right, regardless what another company (in another country) does.

  3. By Dave Starr --- ROI Guy posted on April 23, 2007 at 12:15 am
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    Just another example of Yahoo!’s “obtuse” view of the world. I think it is sad that so few only users will recognize Yahoo’s lack of care for web users, especially users who weren’t fortunate enough to be born under the Stas and Stripes. A sad commentary on greed.