16. November 2007 · Comments Off on Doing the right thing vs. doing things right · Categories: Issues

Yahoo! is making headlines for helping to strangle free speech in China. Again. It boils down to trading the life of a human being in exchange for access to more than 160 million potential advertisers and pairs of eyeballs.

Spokesperson Mary Osako was quoted by the BBC in 2005 as saying,

“Just like any other global company, Yahoo must ensure that its local country sites must operate within the laws, regulations and customs of the country in which they are based.”

In front of a US Congressional committee last week, Jerry Yang, Yahoo!’s chief executive, reportedly apologised to the affected families. Yang did point out that Yahoo! sold its operations in China to Alibaba in 2005 – a company they own 40 percent of. A Committee member pointed this out and compared Yahoo!’s role in this situation to that of IBM’s relationship to the Nazi’s in World War Two.

Mr Yang’s attitude at the time was that they were doing things right – as in by the book.

Yahoo!’s chief exec Yang was also quoted as saying “I don’t think anyone was trying to do anything wrong.” He also made the point that they didn’t know the personal information they were providing included information about a dissident.

Here’s a question to ponder: If Yahoo! had known the information they were providing included information about a dissident, would they have risked (sorry, I mean would they risk their 40% interest in) those 160 million plus potential customers?

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