Monday, July 26, 2010

Yahoo operates using 'situational rights'

David Kravets of the 'Threat Level' blog at Wired.com reports that Yahoo is "arguing out of both sides of its web portal" in it's response to a suit filed by Chinese dissidents whose information was surrendered to Chinese authorities by Yahoo - resulting in their arrest and torture.

Yahoo is claiming that all it did is follow Chinese law - and that the First Amendment protects its right to deal with the Chinese government. Yahoo further argues that U.S. courts are not the proper place for the case, despite a U.S. statute allowing exactly this type of case. Kravets quotes Yahoo as saying:

"This is a lawsuit by citizens of China imprisoned for using the Internet in China to express political views in violation of China law. It is a political case challenging the laws and actions of the Chinese government," Yahoo told the court. "It has no place in the American courts."

That sounds legitimate, I suppose, from a corporate standpoint. If you ignore the fact that they would not have been imprisoned, or at least not as soon, if Yahoo hadn't ratted, er, provided the Chinese government with the information needed to locate them. It looks worse when Kravets provides a little background info on Yahoo's fress speech claims:

Yet two years ago, while citing the First Amendment, Yahoo went to the U.S. courts in a bid to prevent it from having to pay millions in fines levied by a French court for allowing French citizens to barter Nazi paraphernalia on its auction site _ a practice against French law.

That sounds like Yahoo wants to argue that free speech should be protected if you're selling stuff on their site, but not if you're complaining against your repressive government. Ignoring problems I have with the idea that selling = free speech, it sounds to me like Yahoo is having a serious case of corporate double standard. What do you think?