Yahoo aids Chinese journalist’s conviction

Internet company Yahoo is implicated as another journalist falls prey to China’s heavily regulated internet environment…

The media activist organisation Reporters Without Borders has revealed that Hong Kong based company Yahoo Holdings supplied crucial information that led to the conviction of Chinese journalist Shi Tao.

According to the translated version of the verdict, which sentenced the journalist to 10 years in prison, Yahoo provided authorities with details enabling them to link the personal e-mail account Shi used, with the IP address of his computer.

The 37 year old reporter with a local business daily was convicted for sending foreign websites the text of a message warning journalists of social destabilisation, following the return of certain dissidents on the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Shi admitted sending it out but disputed that it was a “top secret” document as alleged by authorities. A regulation introduced in 2001 makes it a capital crime to “provide state secrets” to organisations and individuals over the internet.

Yahoo continues to maintain that it simply complies with the laws of the countries it operates in. Reporters Without Borders has questioned whether this exempts it from any related ethical considerations. According to the organization, Yahoo has, for a number of years, allowed censorship of the Chinese version of its search engine. Potentially sensitive searches like “Taiwan independence” bring up only an approved and limited set of results.

Yahoo is also one of over 300 signatories to a voluntary pledge titled “A Public Pledge on Self-Discipline for the China Internet Industry” which reinforces regulations governing the use of the internet in China.

Reporters Without Borders’ repeated attempts to elicit a response from Yahoo’s executives regarding these ethical implications have so far been in vain.