Yahoo! founder Jerry Yang continues to spew excrement, echoing his shoulder-shrugging of earlier this month, which essentially amounts to saying: So sorry we assisted in human rights violations, but there's nothing we can do if we're going to bring the Internet to the Chinese people. One recent quote:
"You have to balance the risk of not participating," he said. "And people don't realize that being in the market every day there, and being on the ground, we are seeing changes, on the whole, for the positive."
Tell that to the family of Shi Tao who is in jail for 10 years. Jerry Yang should meet with them and tell them to their faces just how sorry he is, but that Shi is being sacrificed for a noble cause. I'm sure they'll understand...
Yahoo! executives keep framing this issue as black and white: Either you're in there and do everything the Chinese authorities tell you without question, or you can't do business in China at all. That is false. Companies can and do make choices. You can engage in China and choose not to do certain kinds of business. Yahoo! has placed user e-mail data within legal jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China. Google and Microsoft have both chosen not to do so. Why did Yahoo! chose to do this? Either they weren't thinking through the consequences or they don't care.
Based on my conversations with people in the Chinese dot-com world, I get the impression that initially, they weren't thinking through the full implications of their business plans. But given that they are now doing nothing to help the families of the dissidents who are in jail thanks to Yahoo!'s cooperation with the Chinese police, and they are doing nothing to prevent more such convictions with Yahoo!'s assistance in the future (or the assistance of it's Chinese partner Alibaba under the Yahoo! brand), one must conclude they also don't actually care very much. If Yahoo's disingenuousness annoys you as much as it annoys me, Amnesty International has a letter writing campaign with all the addresses you need to let Jerry Yang and his colleagues know what you think. They have several recommendations for action which I have updated and modified below.
If Yahoo! wants to convince their users worldwide that the company actually cares about user rights, and that Yahoo! deserves user trust, Yahoo! should:
• Use its influence to secure the release of Shi Tao, Li Zhi, and any other people who simply exercised their universally recognized right to political dissent and whose arrest and sentencing was aided by Yahoo!
• Stop any actions that could undermine human rights in any country in which you operate
• Take immediate steps to ensure that all its units – the parent corporation and subsidiaries – uphold human rights responsibilities for companies, as outlined by the UN Norms for Business
• Develop an explicit human rights policy, ensuring that it complies with the UN Norms for Business.
Note: There is no mention here about disengagement with China. Jerry Yang, and other Yahoo! executives, please stop claiming that your critics are advocating disengagement. Most of us aren't. Stop treating the public and your (increasingly former) users like morons. It's really bad for business. You've certainly lost my trust.
UPDATE: Note I have added Yahoo!'s ticker symbol to my title. Thanks to Kathryn Cramer for pointing out that if you include a company's ticker symbol on your blog posts, they'll show up in Google Finance. Very cool.