Rights group: Yahoo abets China's arrest and torture of dissidents

Yahoo has helped the authoritarians who run China track down dissidents, and in doing so, "knowingly and willfully aided and abetted in the commission of torture and other major abuses violating international law." So says a lawsuit by the human rights group The World Organization for Human Rights USA.

The group just filed a suit against Yahoo, claiming that the Internet portal handed over all the information the Chinese government required to track down dissidents, including "private e-mail records, copies of email messages, e-mail addresses, user ID numbers, and other identifying information" --- enough information so that the government could easily hunt down and arrest dissidents.

Once the dissidents were arrested, with Yahoo's help, says the suit, they were jailed for years and tortured.

The suit says that at least 60 people have been arrested and then tortured, thanks to Yahoo's actions. You can read the suit in its entirety, here.

What did the dissidents do wrong? They had the gall to express "their support for free elections, democracy, or human rights."

They made the mistake of using Yahoo services, such as Yahoo Groups and Yahoo Mail, to express that support for democracy privately and publicly. Yahoo then only too happily turned over enough information about them to the government so they could be tracked down. And Yahoo knew exactly what would happen once that information was turned over.

The suit charges, in essence, that Yahoo made a deal with the devil -- turn over enough information so that the dissidents could be arrested, in return for growing the Yahoo business in China. It says that Yahoo "provided identifying information about the Plaintiffs, in violation of the privacy agreements and assurances made to the Defendants’ customers and users, that led to their arbitrary arrest, indefinite detention and torture, in order to obtain the approval and support of PRC (Chinese) officials and their agreement to allow them to continue conducting and expanding the Defendants’ business interests" in China.

In pursuit of the almight dollar -- no, make that the almight yuan -- Yahoo has a long and shameful history of cooperating with the authoritarians who run China. This latest chapter is the most shameful by far.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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