Consequential Damage

The wife of the dissident fingered by Yahoo to the Chinese dictators is suing Yahoo. For once, we recommend some judicial activism to help her win.

This case differs from the disgraceful censorship imposed on Chinese by the likes of Google – that just helps keep the Chinese people in slavery. Yahoo went one step further and identified one of its customers to agents of a dictatorship that has killed over 35 million:

“class enemies”, religious minorities, Uighurs Muslims, Christians, (and) Falun Gong.

In this case (my ellipsis):

Wang Xiaoning…had written articles critical of the Chinese Communist Party and distributed them through a Yahoo Group function and, when that stopped working, e-mails.

His pro-democracy essays — with titles like “To Correctly Understand China’s Constitution and Propel the Democratization by Using the Constitution” — labeled the socialist government an “authoritarian dictatorship” and called for multiparty elections.

(He was convicted) by the First Intermediary People’s Court for inciting “the subversion of state power.” His appeal was rejected later that year.

Both court opinions cited information provided by Yahoo Hong Kong.

Yahoo’s defense:

“It’s important to note that law-enforcement agencies in China, the United States and elsewhere typically do not explain to information technology companies like Yahoo … why they demand specific information in a criminal investigation regarding certain individuals,” Yahoo spokesman Jim Cullinan explains.

But Yahoo knew perfectly well that China’s dictatorship and its agents are mass murderers.

This seems to me to be an example of what English law calls Consequential Damage – not an action itself, but its ultimate consequences. For example if a driver kills a pedestrian while distracted by a cellphone call, he can be held responsible for that death.

A plaintiff can obtain compensation for such damage by showing that the perpetrator of the action causing the ultimate damage should reasonably have envisioned its outcome.

By that measure, Yahoo should go down, and we hope US courts agree.

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