Thursday, April 20, 2006

Boo Yahoo!

A few months ago, I and many others swore off Yahoo! after it had been reported that Yahoo! had been complicit in aiding the Chinese government in the arrest and imprisonment, first of one and then a second Chinese journalist for revealing "state secrets." In fact, one of the reporter's activities amounted to discussions with other groups on the subversive topic of democracy. Specifically, Shi Tao was found "guilty" and convicted of
having e-mailed a pro-democracy activist in New York details of a government order barring Chinese media from marking the 15th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
Is that one sinking in? Despite the fact that every other media outlet in the Asian and Western world noted this anniversary, the Chinese government issued an order barring the Chinese media from marking the anniversary of Tiananmen Square and also expected the media to keep
that order a secret. That is the tippy-top "state secret" we western imperialist dogs are not supposed to know.

With the vast, nearly untapped market of Chinese consumers awaiting the company to sell them shit, Yahoo! promptly coughed up Shi's IP address to Chinese officials. Shi is now serving 10 years for his appalling behaviour.

But now, Reporters Sans Frontieres is stating that there is a third Chinese journalist,
Jiang Lijun, jailed in November of 2004 for his online pro-demcracy articles, who was given up by Yahoo! RSF goes on,
Little by little we are piecing together the evidence for what we have long suspected, that Yahoo ! is implicated in the arrest of most of the people that we have been defending.
In a mother lode of irony, Jiang was convicted of "subversion" for calling the Chinese government autocratic.

We have been watching a number of US internet companies, Google, Cisco, MSN, Yahoo!, bending over backwards, accomodating any number of Chinese government requirements and restricitions. The reason is obvious, of course. The country represents an enormous new market to any number of internet niches -- potentially four times the size of the US -- and these companies want to get in on the ground floor and establish their brand first before the Chinese do what they will inevitably do: steal the precious intellectual property (IP) of these companies and turn it against them. If Google, Yahoo!, etc. get in early and establish a footing, they have a better chance of appearing to be as Chinese as any local company. By sucking up to Chinese officials, they also stand a better chance of getting some stronger IP rights established, something that will only protect them in the cutthroat market place there.

Instead of towing the party line, some had imagined that these companies could band together and impose demands on the Chinese to start acting like they really want to be part of the 21st century. But this is probably unrealistic. For one, companies really don't care about shit like human rights (if you doubt this, you should see The Corporation). Sure, their human corpuslces might spout on about such things once in awhile but, by and large, corporations are sociopathic entities. Also, since
China is not terribly respectful of IP rights and if these companies chose not to do business there, it wouldn't take the Chinese long to come up with somthing on their own, probably by stealing a few things just to speed up development. For the reasons above, I highly doubt Microsoft, Google, etc. have the nuts to even consider taking a stand.

In fact, we know they don't. Recently, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that his company would abide Chinese censorship requirements on its search engine, preventing phrases like "human rights" and "democracy" from working (and, who knows, maybe even reporting the searcher to the Chinese authorities). He even had the unbridled gall to say that Google's decision was "
absolutely the right one." "Absolutely right" seems like a strong position when coming down on the side of state censorship. Then again, to the CEO's of the world, there are absolutes, but they don't include human rights or freedom of expression. Making a big fucking buck. Now, that's an absolute they can all get behind.

But Yahoo! appears to be the worst of the bunch. Censoring a few search words is one thing; knowingly sending people to jail for writing about democracy is something none of us should tolerate. Nor should we expect this to get any better if we do. I consigned my Yahoo! account long ago to being a spam bucket. Consider doing the same or dumping it altogether.


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