Asia’s Fight for Web Rights
In November 2007, Yahoo! Inc. did what it could have done two years ago when it became known that the company had aided the 2005 conviction of Chinese journalist Shi Tao, now serving 10 years in prison for “revealing state secrets.” In a legal settlement, Yahoo pledged to provide an undisclosed amount of “financial, humanitarian and legal support” to the families of Shi Tao and Wang Xiaoning, another dissident jailed in 2003 for 10 years with the help of email data supplied by Yahoo. This came immediately after Yahoo cofounder and chief executive officer, Jerry Yang, made a dramatic public apology to Shi Tao’s mother, Gao Qinsheng, at a United States Congressional hearing. He bowed solemnly to her three times as tears rolled down her cheeks.
This January, the company went even further, setting up a “Yahoo! Human Rights Fund” to be administered by human-rights activist Harry Wu to “provide humanitarian and legal assistance to persons in the People’s Republic of China who have been imprisoned or persecuted for expressing their views using the Internet.” Mr. Yang convinced Condoleeza Rice to raise the cases of Messrs. Wang and Shi with Chinese leaders on a trip to Beijing in February. Meanwhile, according to Yahoo executives, human-rights assessments are now conducted before entering sensitive markets or launching new products in those markets. The company is also an active participant in a “multistakeholder process” to establish a global code of conduct on free expression and privacy for Internet and telecommunications companies.
Read also Shi Tao, Yahoo!, and the lessons for corporate social responsibility by Rebecca MacKinnon.