Yahoo! Helped Jail Chinese Journo

12 comments
Source Title:
Yahoo helped China jail Journalist
Story Text:

Forbes and many others are reporting on the news that Reporters Without Borders, believe that the jailing of Chinese journalist Shi Tao, who was jailed in November 2004 and convicted in April for sending state secrets abroad was due to Yahoo revealing information about the journalist.

RSF said,

Reporters Without Borders said Yahoo's Hong Kong division, Yahoo Holdings, complied with a court order to disclose the information that led authorities to Shi.

``Now they are indirectly contributing to the jailing of a journalist,'' said Tala Dowlatshahi, the New York representative for the group.

A Yahoo spokeswoman said the Sunnyvale company was still collecting details on the case and would not comment.

I appreciate that Yahoo and many of the other new entrants into the Chinese search sphere operate as local Chinese businesses and will have to comply with local Chinese law but when that Chinese business is owned by a huge western corporation a question has to be asked, and that question is

Does social commercial responsibility to free speech come into the equation when running a business in a territory that doesn't allow it?

Comments

"Social commercial

"Social commercial responsibility" seems a confused phrase - whose social moral compass are we using for this? What is the objective moral standard being applied?

Possibly not the best forum for addressing the moralistic questions, but it would be hard to justify why a billion-dollar US company should see itself as above any individual local laws.

If asked to co-operate by a legal authority, in what way would it be responsible for Yahoo! to refuse co-operation?

Legally, no

If you want to do business in a territory, you have to comply with their laws. If you don't like those laws, you don't trade there.

Freedom of speech is enshrined in the US constitution, and fairly well protected in the UK, as quite well across the rest of Europe. It remains a fact that the majority of the worlds population live under far greater restrictons on what they can say.

Whether we as fairly liberal Westerners happen to like that or not is immaterial. If any changes are to be made, they should come from the citizens of the countries in question. Solutions imposed from outside rarely actually improve matters.

If Yahoo were complying with a court order, I don't see what else they could do. If the US, or UK police got a court order to obtain the release of information about a US / UK citizen, it wouldn't be news. We may be less impressed with the legal processes involved in the authorities obtaining that order in China, but hey, it's still their country.

I personally think it sucks, but then many Chinese probably think that many aspects of our system suck. There's not really a "right" answer here

If you want to do business

Quote:
If you want to do business in a territory, you have to comply with their laws. If you don't like those laws, you don't trade there.

This is really the nub of it. It should be a caution to other Western corporations before they enter the Chinese market: what kind of moral compromises are you willing to make in pursuit of profits?

Also, how will the changed perspectives of later generations view those compromises? (ie.: in the US many railroads companies and insurance companies are being critisized today for their role in transporting and insuring slaves in the 1800's, will future generations view Western corporations as collaborators with a totalitarian state?) I'm not saying they are, just pointing out that what seems like an expediant decision in one era looks really bad in later eras. And it's not always obvious.

Social commercial

Quote:
Social commercial responsibility

You're right Brian, that reads terribly. I suppose I really meant something like:

Does social responsibility to free speech come into the equation when running a business in a territory that doesn't allow it?

Now I personally agree with Mr Troll. If you pay the devil you play by their rules. In this instance Yahoo (and to be fair many other large corps like Google etc.) have entered the Chinese marketplace. They were more than aware of the "issues" in doing business in a pseudo communist / capitalist state and they chose to enter that marketplace none the less. Personally I can't blame them in the slightest. The market is huge, it is close to being virginal and it is similar to being in California 10 years ago - It's a dot com (dot cn?) Utopia!

Now if a Californian company gets told by the courts ni California to do something then the company has to comply.

Why is it any different if a Chinese company (admitably owned by a US business) shouldn't have to comply when told to do something by a Chinese court?

I think the media are given Yahoo a rough ride on this one, but I do believe, as a friend said to me on Instant Messenger today that

Quote:
Yahoo's honeymoon period is over

My fear on this matter is that this story is what will tip it over the precipice when in fact there was no choice for the company to take!

Does this apply to governemnets aswell then

So should countries not trade with countries who they disagree with their policies.

Not an easy answer for anyone.

I personally like orange and will only now deal with people who like orange....on a moral viewpoint. But cross my hand with potential silver and I will deal with people who like red.

DougS...bored:)

Governments have never

Governments have never pretended to have any morals. Nor should they really, a governments sole purpose for being is to do as well as possible for its citizens (even totalitarian ones have to SAY it). The corollary of that is that "someone else" is going to get the shaft. Hardly a rock solid moral stance....

Although we have in (very) recent history decided that a few practices are so repulsive that we should cease trade with nations that practice them, the trade restrictions are usually quite limited (no weapons or machinery that could be used to manufacture weapons. No purchasing of their major export commodities), and often broken anyway, not least due to very lax enforcement.

As for the specific question, I don't think that there are ANY 2 nations who agree in all particulars of all policy areas. Differences exist, but we all need to trade. You just learn to smile and ignore the stench...

Come on

Governments have never pretended to have any morals. Nor should they

What sort of world does that create, we vote for policy makers who we accept will shaft us.

DougS

Read it all Doug

>> a governments sole purpose for being is to do as well as possible for its citizens

Just the same as any organised group, those on the inside get preferential treatment. It is a Governments DUTY to do this, otherwise, we would not tolerate the restrictions that they place on us.

If the Government is doing its best to get the best deal for its own citizens, by definition someone else is getting the "other" end of the stick

>> we vote for policy makers who we accept will shaft us.

No, we vote for policy makers who will make sure that someone else gets the shaft. But remember, everyone else is voting for policy makers who are trying to shaft us

Governments

There is a very large difference between immoral, amoral and morally mistaken governments. Some governments merely neglect their people while others like the USSR under Stalin actively kill large segments of their own people. These differences are large enough that they cannot dismissed by a wave of the hand and platitudes.

local laws always win

in terms of companies complying with local laws the moral decision does need to be made before starting trading in that country - you can choose not to do business in or with China because their policies are disagreeable but not flout their laws once you do do business there.

For multinationals if complying with a countries laws upset your customers elsewhere then you also have to accept the PR, Nestle have proved that a companies actions in one country can have a huge effect on their business in the rest of the world.

have to disagree

So again what type of world does that create......

"If the Government is doing its best to get the best deal for its own citizens, by definition someone else is getting the "other" end of the stick"

I have to disagree that it is the only way to govern.

One day some pissed off person/people are going to throw more toys out of the plan...as is already happening. The days of countries and companies living in isolation is gone.

DougS

Yahoo reply via The

Yahoo reply via The Times

Quote:
"Just like any other global company, Yahoo! must ensure that its local country sites must operate within the laws, regulations and customs of the country in which they are based," Mary Osako, a Yahoo! spokeswoman, said in a statement from the firm’s Hong Kong arm.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.