September 18, 2005

I Do Not “Yahoo!” Update: WaPo Weighs In

Important September 19 Update: RConversation did another post on the topic late last night, and noted that the Yahoo! filtering goes beyond even what they “must” do for the Chinese government (bolds mine):

(The screen shots exhibited) show that Yahoo! actively filters politically sensitive terms from within its own service. Even if a Chinese user finds a way to access Yahoo from outside China or via a foreign proxy server, they will still get filtered search results on politically sensitive terms. By contrast, Google does not actively filter.

…. As a result, Chinese users of Yahoo! have no way of discovering that the search results they seek actually do exist — even if they are tech-savvy enough to use a proxy server. This is the same experience that Chinese users have when using home-grown Chinese search engines like Baidu. Google users have a better chance of finding forbidden material if they know how to use proxies, but those who don’t (i.e., most Chinese internet users) also have no way of knowing what they’re missing.

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The Washington Post’s editorial board eloquently speaks out (requires registration):

Obeying Orders

IN THIS COUNTRY it is not a crime for a journalist to complain — even to complain loudly — about the government’s attempts to manipulate the media. But it is a crime in China, as Shi Tao, a journalist in Hunan, recently discovered. At a meeting in April 2004, a local communist party boss gave Shi Tao and his colleagues verbal orders on how they were to cover the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Shi Tao took notes at the meeting and, using his private e-mail account, sent off a description of what he’d been told to a pro-democracy Web site run by a Chinese emigre in New York. A few weeks ago, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for doing so.

Though Shi Tao’s “crime” would not have been considered illegal in America, an American company was directly responsible for his conviction. Unfortunately, Shi Tao had a Yahoo e-mail address, and when the Chinese government asked, Yahoo Inc. complied with its request to hunt him down.

It also takes on the claim that what Yahoo! is doing isn’t already illegal:

In fact, it is not at all clear that Yahoo’s excuse is legitimate. American companies are not always allowed to deviate from U.S. practices when operating in foreign countries. Companies are forbidden, for example, to engage in bribery, even in countries where bribery is condoned. American companies have also been successfully sued in American courts for violating international human rights laws. More important, in 1989 Congress specifically forbade U.S. companies to sell “crime control and detection” equipment to the Chinese. At the time, that meant police gear, such as truncheons and handcuffs. Members of Congress have recently asked the Commerce Department to clarify whether that law covers the sale of filters or other repressive information technology. If the conclusion is that it doesn’t, maybe it’s time for Congress to have a look at that law again.

Finally, it notes that the conduct Yahoo! has engaged in undercuts the entire premise behind the long-term advantages of opening up trade with China and other authoritarian countries:

Over the past two decades, many have argued — ourselves included — that despite China’s authoritarian and sometimes openly hostile government, it is nevertheless right to encourage American companies to work there. Their very presence has been thought to make the society more open, if not necessarily more democratic. If that is no longer the case — if, in fact, American companies are helping China become more authoritarian, more hostile and more of an obstacle to U.S. goals of democracy promotion around the world — then it is time to rethink the rules under which they operate.

Well done, WaPo. Hopefully this will be the beginning of much broader attention.
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Sept. 19 Update: Likelihood of Confusion is more forgiving of Yahoo! on the grounds that companies from the rest of the world will move in if we don’t. My response: If the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in the mid-1970s, which essentially prohibited American companies from bribing foreign government officials to get business, didn’t ruin our ability to do business in the rest of the world, why would refusing to cooperate with a police state that wants to jail a journalist cause significant long-term harm?

Quote of the Day: On Venezuela

Filed under: Economy,Quotes, Etc. of the Day,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:58 am

Employing the dark humor communist countries, or communist countries in the making, are famous for (HT Babalublog):

A German, a Frenchman, an Englishman and a Venezuelan were together in the Louvre, viewing a painting of Adam and Eve in Paradise.

The German said: Look at the perfection of the bodies: She is svelte and shapely, he’s got an athletic body, his muscles are perfect. … They must be Germans.

Immediately, the Frenchman reacted: I don’t think so. It’s clear that eroticism emanates from these figures…She is so feminine, he is so masculine…We know that they will be tempted quickly…They must be French.

Shaking his head, the Englishman commented: Not at all. I don’t think either of you have gotten it…The serenity of their faces, the delicacy of the pose, the sobriety of their gestures. They could only be English.

Then after a few seconds more of contemplation, the Venezuelan exclaimed: You all have it wrong. Look carefully: They don’t have clothes, they don’t have shoes, they don’t have a home, they only have a miserable apple to eat, and still they think, to us pendejos, that they are in paradise. They could only be Chavistas!

Positivity: A 76 Year-old 18-Day Katrina Survivor

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 12:10 am

This is more amazing than the one from a couple of days ago. Incredibly, this guy was still conscious and essentially walked away under his own power (HT PLB News):

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Positivity: Perfect Strangers Help Katrina Victims

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 12:05 am

From Wes Pruden of the Washington Times on Friday (Times link will be gone at about 1AM Tuesday morning):

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