US Companies Should Not Collaborate With Tyrants

Yahoo is accused of helping the Chinese jail another dissident. The House International Relations subcommittee on global human rights has scheduled a hearing next week on the Chinese entanglements of Yahoo, Microsoft, Cisco, and Google.

In the interests of global freedom the committee should draft measures to ban US companies from serving tyrants. And concerned citizens should not use these companies.

WSJ (subscription):

Yahoo Inc…supplied personal information to Beijing authorities on a second Chinese dissident who was sentenced to a harsh prison term, according to a press freedom group.

Reporters Without Borders said Wednesday that cyber-dissident Li Zhi, who was given an eight-year prison sentence in December 2003, was convicted based on electronic records that Yahoo provided to the government, citing a plea by Li’s lawyer, Zhang Sizhi.

A Yahoo spokeswoman said the company is “unaware of this case” and couldn’t comment on the veracity of the report.

“We were sure the case of Shi Tao, who was jailed for 10 years last April on the basis of Yahoo-supplied data, was not the only one. Now we know Yahoo works regularly and efficiently with the Chinese police,” said the Paris-based group’s Internet Freedom desk head, Julien Pain, in an email to journalists. He demanded that Yahoo disclose names of any other dissidents whose information it has provided to the government.

Yahoo says it must comply with local laws wherever it operates and is rarely aware of the purpose of a government information request. “In most jurisdictions, the government of China isn’t required to inform service providers why it is requesting certain information and typically does not do so,” the spokeswoman said. “We wouldn’t have known whether a demand for information focused on murder, kidnapping or another crime.”

The US is the beacon of freedom for countless millions around the world, and the sight of US companies colluding with their oppressors will make them despair, so harming US efforts to secure its safety by spreading freedom. For example, how can the US credibly offer to help the Iranian people when its companies are aiding the Mullahs’ allies?

The companies aren’t to entirely blame – they aim to maximize return to their shareholders, within the law, and if feeding customer data to the Chinese Gestapo does that, then that’s what they’ll do.

However these companies operate within US laws, so the House subcommittee should draft a law forbidding US companies from providing customer data to non-democratic regimes and terror states.

Free world customers can help – I didn’t use Google, and will now not use Yahoo. Suggestions for alternatives are welcome!

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