John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Yahoo: It Is Better to Light One Candle in the Jail Cell of a Chinese Dissident Than to Curse the Darkness

yahoo-chinaflag.jpgWhat Yahoo would likely describe as nuance in its position on a human-rights lawsuit brought against it by two Chinese journalists, others might call talking out of both sides of your mouth. Earlier this week, the company said its Chinese subsidiary had no choice but to follow local laws when it handed over private information that led to the imprisonment and torture of Shi Tao and Wang Xiaoning. In a motion to dismiss the case, Yahoo argued that it cannot “be held liable for the independent acts of the (Chinese government) just because a former Yahoo subsidiary in China obeyed a lawful government request for the collection of evidence relevant to a pending investigation. … This is a lawsuit by citizens of China imprisoned for using the Internet in China to express political views in violation of China law,” Yahoo told the court. “It is a political case challenging the laws and actions of the Chinese government. It has no place in the American courts.”

Of course, the irony, the hysterical irony, of this is that back in 2000, Yahoo policy on international legal matters like these was quite a bit different–diametrically opposed, to be exact. Defending the company against a French court’s order to remove Nazi memorabilia from its auction pages, Yahoo’s top French executive, Philippe Guillanton, said that such a ruling ran against the international nature of the World Wide Web. “Yahoo.com is not doing anything unlawful. It is completely complying with the law of the country in which it operates and where its target audience is,” Guillanton said. “Yahoo auctions in the U.S. are ruled by the legal, moral and cultural principles of that country.”

Nice, eh? As Rough Type’s Nick Carr notes, “Times change, and so do companies. This time, Yahoo executives are making no mention of ‘the legal, moral and cultural principles’ of the U.S.”


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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle