Group alleges Yahoo! complicit in Chinese dissident arrest
Reporters Without Borders says that Yahoo supplied data to government in conviction on 'subversive' speech.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - A freedom of speech group has accused Yahoo! of complying with the Chinese government's program of cracking down on dissident political speech on the Internet.
Reporters Without Borders said in statement that Yahoo (Research) provided customer data to the Chinese government on several occasions, including in the 2003 case of Li Zhi, who was jailed for "inciting subversion."
Li had been arrested previously in 2002 for posting in online discussion groups about the corruption of local officials, according to the statement.
"[Yahoo] says it simply responds to requests from the authorities for data without ever knowing what it will be used for. But this argument no longer holds water," said the statement. "Yahoo certainly knew it was helping to arrest political dissidents and journalists, not just ordinary criminals."
"We are unaware of this case," said Yahoo spokeswoman Mary Osako told Business 2.0, CNNMoney's sister publication. "We can't comment on the accuracy of the report."
The activist group called for Yahoo to release the names of all people it has provided data on, pointing to a Reporters Without Borders list of 81 people who were allegedly jailed for speech violations.
Yahoo has previously faced criticism. Shi Tao, another dissident was jailed for 10 years in April 2005 after the Internet company allegedly supplied data about him to the government.
Regarding the Shi Tao case, Yahoo's Osako adds that the company was "rigorous in our procedures and we only responded with what we were legally compelled to provide and nothing more." (Yahoo China, which was a division of Yahoo at the time of the alleged Li Zhi incident, is now operated by Alibaba, a Chinese Web company in which Yahoo owns a minority stake.)
Osako added: "The facts surrounding the Shi Tao case are distressing to Yahoo. We pride ourselves on helping citizens around the world search and access information. The choice is not whether to comply with law enforcement demands for information. The choice is whether to remain in the country. We believe that the Internet is a positive force in China."
Yahoo, Google, Microsoft (Research) and Cisco Systems (Research) all declined to attend a Feb. 1 briefing before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus about the role of U.S. business in Chinese Internet Censorship. (Full story)
The U.S. House of Representatives has invited Yahoo to a Feb. 15 hearing on the ethical responsibilities of Internet firms, according to Reporters Without Borders.
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