MacKinnon on Yahoo

Rebecca coolly and methodically flays Yahoo alive, in her typically understated manner, and her new post should get lots of attention.

I’ve tried to give all the Internet companies every benefit of the doubt, understanding their need to build their businesses in China. Google and Microsoft each showed some humanity as they made their difficult decisions on how to keep their integrity as they did business on the CCP’s terms. Yahoo has yet to demonstrate this humanity. They have a lot to answer for, Rebecca says, as she questions a rather vacuous statement from Yahoo spokesperson Mary Osako.

Yahoo! has given no indication that its practices contributing to the conviction of at least 4 Chinese dissidents will be modified in any way in the future. Yahoo!’s original decision to house e-mail servers inside China under Chinese legal jurisdiction clearly has had horrible human consequences. What will they do to change current practices to prevent such things happening in the future? They’ve given no indication that they’re doing anything concrete whatsoever, rendering Osako’s statement on the matter completely meaningless, it seems to me. To pass off responsibility to Yahoo!’s Chinese partner Alibaba is not a legitimate response, either, because if such collaboration continues, it will be happening under Yahoo!’s brand, and thus by implication with Yahoo!’s consent and approval.

Those are serious charges. Yahoo has done so much to create one of the world’s best-known and admired brands. Are they going to let this poison the well? I was deadset against a boycott of google. Google’s “crimes” in no way merited such an extreme reaction. But if Rebecca’s on target (and she nearly always is), Yahoo’s crimes just might qualify.

The Discussion: One Comment

Is it too far-fetched to suggest that one of the factors driving Yahoo! to offload Yahoo! China onto Alibaba under extremly generous terms (apart, that is, from the fact that Yahoo! had screwed up its China business twice already) was the desire to avoid direct involvement in complicity with the government?

Rebecca is right. The argument, while perhaps legally persuasive, is a moral fig leaf. If you accept the idea that Nike and Wal Mart have some level of responsibility for operating practices among their suppliers in China, Yahoo! cannot divorce Alibaba’s actions from their own.

May 4, 2006 @ 6:31 am | Comment

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