The authorities in Hong Kong have decided there is not enough evidence to prove Yahoo! Hong Kong handed over information from Shi Tao's Yahoo mail account, which helped convict the Chinese reporter, accused of leaking state secrets, to ten years in prison on mainland China (via The Times and USA Today).
'The result of the Hong Kong authorities' investigation is consistent with my understanding of the facts', writes Rebecca MacKinnon, but "the issue for me is that Yahoo! chose to host user e-mail data in a jurisdiction where the company would inevitably wind up serving as a conduit for human rights violations.
They made a choice. Not all companies have made the same choice. It was not something they 'had' to do. They have not ever expressed public regret for having made this choice. Now they say it's out of their hands because the Chinese company Alibaba now controls Yahoo! China. Yahoo! deserves to take a hit on its global brand reputation and user trust as a result."
I couldn't agree more. This whole story reminds me of an excellent post by Adriana I never found the right opportunity to blog about: Complicity in a crime is also a crime. Here's an excerpt, but do check out the full post:
"I am fed up with Western companies collaborating with dictatorships and totalitarian regimes, helping them restrict the internet and monitor communications by those who disagree and oppose them. Julien Pain of Reporters without Borders writes in Dictatorships catching up with Web 2.0:
These days, "subversive" or "counter-revolutionary" material goes on the Internet and political dissidents and journalists have become "cyberdissidents" and "online journalists." ... The Web makes networking much easier, for political activists as well as teenagers. Unfortunately, this progress and use of new tools by activists is now being matched by the efforts of dictatorships to fight them. Dictators, too, have entered the world of Web 2.0.
Today the likes of Google, Microsoft, Cisco, Skype, Yahoo! cannot be excused even on the basis of ignorance....."
Update 16/03: just came across this brilliant Wired article which shows just how problematic this situation is, "Yahoo betrayed my husband".