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How Yahoo assist Government Censorship in China(7)

Posted by Author on August 25, 2006

(cont’d)
Alibaba partnership: Unlike Microsoft and Google (cases detailed below), Yahoo! has chosen to relinquish control over what is done in China under its brand name to a Chinese partner. In August 2005, Yahoo! announced it would purchase a 40 percent stake in the Chinese e-commerce firm Alibaba.com. It was also announced that Yahoo! would merge its China-based subsidiaries into Alibaba, including the Yahoo! Chinese search engine (at: cn.yahoo.com) and Chinese email service (cn.mail.yahoo.com). On February 15, 2006, when Yahoo! (along with three other U.S.-based companies, Cisco, Microsoft, and Google), was brought before a U.S. House of Representatives committee hearing to explain its collaboration with Chinese government censorship requirements, Michael Callahan explained: “It is very important to note that Alibaba.com is the owner of the Yahoo! China businesses, and that as a strategic partner and investor, Yahoo!, which holds one of the four Alibaba.com board seats, does not have day-to-day operational control over the Yahoo! China division of Alibaba.com.”68 According to spokeswoman Mary Osako, Alibaba has had full control over Yahoo! China’s operational and compliance policies since October 2005.69

Statements by Alibaba’s CEO Jack Ma make it clear that his company has no intention of changing Yahoo! China’s approach to handing over user information. In November 2005, when the Financial Times asked him what he would have done in the Shi Tao case, he replied: “I would do the same thing… I tell my customers and my colleagues, that’s the right way to do business.”70 In a May 7, 2006 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle he elaborated further:

We set up a process today—I think a few months ago­—if anyone comes looking for information from my company, not only Yahoo but also Taobao (Alibaba’s consumer auction site) and Alibaba (the auction site for businesses). If it’s national security or a terrorist, if it’s criminals, or people cheating on the Internet, that’s when we cooperate. The authorities must have a license or a document. Otherwise, the answer is no.71

Regarding censorship of Yahoo!’s search engine, Ma recently told the New York Times: “Anything that is illegal in China — it’s not going to be on our search engine. Something that is really no good, like Falun Gong?” He shook his head in disgust. “No! We are a business! Shareholders want to make money. Shareholders want us to make the customer happy. Meanwhile, we do not have any responsibilities saying we should do this or that political thing. Forget about it!”72

In the August 1, 2006 letter to Human Rights Watch, Yahoo!’s Michael Samway insisted that Yahoo! is not relinquishing all responsibility for Alibaba’s actions:

As a large equity investor with one of four Alibaba.com board seats, we have made clear to Alibaba.com’s senior management our desire that Alibaba.com continue to apply the same rigorous standards in response to govemment demands for information about its users. We will continue to use our influence in these areas given our global beliefs about the benefits of the Internet and our understanding of requirements under local laws.

(to be cont’d…)

– From IV. How Multinational Internet Companies assist Government Censorship in China,
of “Race to the Bottom: Corporate Complicity in Chinese Internet Censorship,” by Human Rights Watch

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