The lawsuit against Yahoo over the jailing of two Chinese journalist whom they helped the government of China to identify has been settled, after Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang met with the families of the two journalists.
Jailed Chinese journalists Wang Xiaoning and Shi Tao, jailed by the Chinese government for “revealing state secrets”, sued Yahoo for human rights violations for revealing Wang Xiaoning and Shi Tao’s online activities to Chinese law enforcement.
Each of the journalists have been sentenced to 10 years’ labour in a Chinese prison – Wang Xiaoning after the Chinese government gained access to his email records showing his having authored pro-democracy articles – anonymously, he had thought – and Shi Tao after he wrote an article revealing that the government of China had banned reporting on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Shi Tao was arrested after Yahoo revealed to Chinese authorities that Shi Tao was the author of that article. It was that breach of information which Wang Xiaoning and Shi Tao claim should have been confidential which lead to the lawsuit against Yahoo.
Yahoo originally explained that they divulged the personal Internet information of the two journalists to the Chinese government through production of information in response to a legal request, and that they were just doing what the law required of them.
However, last week Yahoo’s CEO, Jerry Yang, was in front of Congress explaining the situation, where a member of the House of Representatives accused Yang and his colleagues of being “moral pygmies”.
Shortly thereafter Yang met with Wang Xiaoning and Shi Tao’s families, and discussed settling the law suit.
“After meeting with the families, it was clear to me what we had to do to make this right for them, for Yahoo, and for the future,” said Yang.
Morton Sklar, the attorney for Wang Xiaoning and Shi Tao, said “There’s responsibility for all U.S. corporations doing business abroad. It’s no longer possible for a corporation to say ‘We were just following orders’.”
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Allusions to the Holocaust aside (that’s a Godwin, for you old-time Internet folks who are keeping score), that may be a bit pollyanic* of Sklar.
Summed up House Representative Tom Lantos “It took a tongue-lashing from Congress before these high-tech titans did the right thing and coughed up some concrete assistance for the family of a journalist whom Yahoo had helped send to jail. What a disgrace.”
*Pollyanic refers to a constantly optimistic outlook as epitomized in the character of Pollyanna, the main character in the bestselling novel of the same name, authored by Eleanor H. Porter, and first published in 1913.