Tuesday 28 August 2007

Yaa Boo Hoo. Look out for Big Brother

If you have a Yahoo account, I'd watch what you say on it... maybe it's time to think about ditching it.

It has been revealed, that after 3 years detention, Yahoo provided information to assist the Chinese state security to convict a Chinese journalist for leaking state secrets to a foreign Web site.

The journalist, Shi Tao, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in June for sending an anonymous posting to a New York-based, Chinese-language Web site that authorities said contained state secrets. His posting summarized a communication from Communist Party authorities to media outlets around the country.

Here's the stunning court verdict.

Shi Tao, aged 37, worked for the daily Dangdai Shang Bao (Contemporary Business News).
He was convicted on 30 April of sending foreign-based websites the text of an internal message which the authorities had sent to his newspaper warning journalists of the dangers of social destabilisation and risks resulting from the return of certain dissidents on the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Chinese state security insisted during the trial that the message was top secret. Shi admitted sending it out by e-mail but disputed that it was a secret document. He is being held in Changsha prison to which he was sent after his arrest in the northeastern city of Taiyuan on 24 November 2004.

Shi's case has become a prominent symbol of the recent tightening of media controls in the one-party state, where authorities often punish outspoken journalists for leaking information deemed secret.

Yahoo provided records showing that Shi used a computer at his workplace, Contemporary Business News, in April 2004, to access his Yahoo e-mail account. Authorities say the offending e-mail was sent to the New York Web site from that e-mail account.

Yahoo's role in the prosecution of Shi was revealed in July by Boxun, a website run by overseas Chinese.

Yahoo, Microsoft, Google, Cisco and other major internet providers have come under scrutiny for helping China to monitor and censor content available to China's 100 million internet users.
Chinese internet experts say Google and Yahoo routinely exclude sensitive political or religious information from searches conducted by users in mainland China. Microsoft's MSN has come under attack for restricting the content of Web logs, or blogs, it hosts in China.

The companies have often said that they must abide by laws and regulations of countries where they operate.

The information circulated involved routine instructions on how officials were to safeguard social stability during the 15th anniversary of the June 4, 1989, democracy movement. Shi's case has alarmed critics of the Chinese government because his posting did not reveal the sender or the source of the information. That meant the authorities had no more to go on when they began their investigation than an anonymous posting on a US-based website.

Using investigative techniques that were not revealed during Shi's trial, Beijing state security officials pinpointed the Chinese source of the e-mail. Yahoo's role remains murky, in part because the company has declined to provide any information about its cooperation with Beijing authorities.

It is unclear whether the company responded voluntarily to a request from Beijing state security, or provided data only when confronted with a court order. Critics say, however, that Yahoo crossed a line by helping authorities prosecute the journalist, even if the company merely responded to a court order.

Yahoo & Chinese censorship

  • For years Yahoo has allowed the Chinese version of its search engine to be censored.
    In 2002, Yahoo voluntarily signed the "
    Public Pledge on Self-Discipline for the China Internet Industry", agreeing to abide by PRC censorship regulations. Searches deemed sensitive by the Chinese authorities such as “Taiwan independence” in Chinese into the Yahoo! China search engine, retrieve only a limited and approved set of results.
    A US-based multinational, Yahoo appears to be willing to go to any lengths to gain shares of the Chinese market and it is investing heavily in local companies.
    In 2003, it spent 120 million dollars to buy the search engine 3721.com.
    More recently Yahoo acquired a large stake in the Internet giant Alibaba in an operation that reportedly cost nearly a billion dollars.
    Reporters Without Borders (which CairnsBlog.net subscribes to) has written several times to Yahoo in an attempt to alert it to the ethical issues raised by its Chinese investments. These letters have so far received no response.

This news comes with a sence of irony, in a country that is famous for censorship and control of free-speech, something like Queensland under Sir Joh, that a Chinese blog of Xu Jinglei received more than 50 million views, claiming to be the most popular blog in the world. In mid-last year, it also had the most incoming links of any blogs on the internet!

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