Yahoo Sued For Human Rights Violations

from the seems-like-a-stretch dept

Last month, we noted that the wife of a jailed Chinese dissident had come to the US to sue Yahoo for handing over info that allowed her husband to be arrested. At the time, we were confused over what law she could sue under. Yahoo had performed the actions in China (where it was obviously legal) rather than the US. However, now the lawsuit has been filed, with the support of various human rights groups. They’re claiming that Yahoo has violated international law concerning torture — but, again, that seems like a stretch. Even the groups filing the lawsuit admit that they’re fishing a bit, hoping to use the lawsuits to find out how involved Yahoo really was in having various dissidents arrested. While it’s unclear if this lawsuit will get very far on a legal basis, it could be much more effective just in shaming Yahoo into adjusting its practices in giving up the private info of Chinese users.

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Comments on “Yahoo Sued For Human Rights Violations”

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Chris says:


If Yahoo’s allowed to do buisness in China by agreeing to certain conditions the Chinese government puts in place (such as handing over user info.), which then gives them a potential market of a billion strong, OR protecting the little guy, my money’s on the’ll rat you out in .02 seconds flat and not dive a damn in doing so either. I mean seriously, does this come to a suprise to anyone that an Amercian coporation would do such a thing?

Ron Obvious says:

Re: uh...

If Yahoo’s allowed to do buisness in China … which then gives them a potential market of a billion strong, OR protecting the little guy, my money’s on the’ll rat you out in .02 seconds flat and not dive a damn in doing so either. I mean seriously, does this come to a suprise to anyone that an Amercian coporation would do such a thing?

You’re rather missing the point. Nobody’s asking the corporation to do anything but follow their informed best interest.

Rather, the human rights organizations are just trying to change the economics of cooperating with tyrants, by increasing the costs – both the direct costs in terms of liabilities, and the indirect costs in terms of bad publicity and the resulting loss of revenue in other markets. Change the economics, and the corporations will change their behavior. For purely economic reasons.

In the end, the hope is that:
(1) companies like (and not just) Yahoo will consider how much they want to invest in countries where their investment is not protected by the rule of law (i.e. is subject to the whims of local tyrants), and also where their involvement will cost them in other markets (e.g. the US, Europe – see above) – and at the same time –
(2) countries like China will consider the “opportunity costs” of their tyrannical practices (i.e. how much more investment they could attract if they offered investors more security and less bad publicity).

Of course, no one expect overnight change. But, bit by bit…. every little bit helps. Or, put another way, activities like this may not make a bad world rosy, but they might make it a little less bad then it otherwise would be.

Ron Obvious

Michael Kohne says:

Yahoo's chinese employees...

And if they hadn’t turned over the info, what do you think would have happened to Yahoo’s chinese employees?

I think it’s a problem to give data to the Chinese government, but unless you decide not to do buisness in China, you don’t have a choice but to hand over the data when the cops come calling.

Fred Flint says:

Abandon All Hope

You can’t shame an international corporation. They are very similar to politicians and lawyers, who are often, all three, the same people.

It isn’t their fault, of course. They are the portion of the world population that hasn’t evolved very far just yet.

What, you thought we all evolved at the same rate? That wouldn’t make any statistical sense. Different apes are struggling every day at different levels of the evolutionary scale.

Their skin is very thick and in fact, they are totally shameless and way, way, way beneath contempt when it comes to The Bottom Line.

Greed is good and no crime is too heinous or disgusting, so long as they are making their multi-million dollar bonus at Christmas.

God help the evolved Chinese.

So endith the lesson for today.

Norman619 (profile) says:

Come on people...

This is part of doing business in China. I would blame the chinese dissidents for their own arrests. Come on they know thier government better than any of us do. They HAD to know China gave Yahoo the OK on the condition they’d hand over information on request. Why people slam Google and Yahoo for honoring their agreements with the Chinese government is silly. I guess here in the US companies shouldn’t follow OUR rules either then. The only real option Yahoo and others have is to NOT do business in China.

Rick says:


I’m loosely on her side, but it’s because Chinese laws are so damn ridiculous sometimes from my personal point of view. Then again, he probably knew what he was doing, so it’s his fault. Yes, that’s right. I nearly forgot, but I’m a republican. It was his own decision to break the law.

His wife is sweet.

SailorRipley (profile) says:

Re: I see...

what is one supposed to do when one is living in a (non-democratic) system that basically makes the laws they want…? How is one supposed to change anything without breaking the law(s)? Luckily most of the world doesn’t agree with you and easily grants (or used to grant) political asylum to dissidents…

you know, I’m sure economical nazi-collaborators would have loved to have you people around…”hey, their were running our country…we’re just honoring our agreement…they allow us to do business and buy our stuff, provided we tell them any information we happen to get about anybody in the resistance or any hidden jew, that was a condition, otherwise we wouldn’t be allowed to do biz….you can’t blame us, we’re just honoring the agreement”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I see...


You sarcasm takes a way from a valid point about the power of the Chinese government over its people. The problem is this is a situation with no good answer, and one that is not going to be changed just because you don’t like Yahoo’s agreement.

Although the Nazi comparison would have been more apt when referring to the Mao regime, and maybe we should be look at Mao as the worst murderer of all time instead of Hitler. The problem is we have no leverage in China to cause change and the Chinese Government isn’t going to change just because US citizens don’t like what they are doing. All the lawsuits in the world can be filed, but they won’t mean anything if you can’t enforce their judgments.

Yahoo could lose this lawsuit and that would mean ending its agreement with the Chinese government. That would mean Yahoo would stop doing business in China, and someone else would step in to take their place. Taking down one company at a time will really do nothing and even if you could do this all at once China has been through rough economic times before. Economic pressure alone will not force China to change.

SailorRipley (profile) says:


That’s a load of BS. Any corporation, I don’t care how big or international it is, is still run by people who have (or don’t have) morals…and so we are perfectly able to judge them on it, even though they are only “honoring their agreements”.

In fact, we can be judgmental about the agreements as well as honoring them.

A little comparison, and don’t give me that it is not the same, I am just applying the same argument to a different situation.

Let’s say there is some country where it’s legal to kill certain people. Or where sex with kids 12 years and older is legal.

So we shouldn’t be allowed to criticize anybody who’d go there, kill someone (or has sex with a 12 yo), because, after all, they didn’t break any law, they didn’t have sex with a minor in the US, they didn’t kill someone in the US, again, they did nothing illegal. Right? We wouldn’t judge someone who does that, there would be no reason to hold it against him, because, after all, he didn’t nothing illegal….right?

An upstanding person (corporation), knowing what the dictatorial China does with dissidents, would have refused to hand over that information, consequences be damned (…and consequences wouldn’t have been so severe anyway…China wouldn’t allow Yahoo in if there wasn’t an upside for them, so kicking them out would “cost” them too)

and btw

They HAD to know China gave Yahoo the OK on the condition they’d hand over information on request

I didn’t know dissidents had such a widespread network that they were present during the internal talks between Yahoo and dictatorial Chinese government…

and complaining about slamming Yahoo and Google for honoring their agreements is extremely lame:

granted, in general, honoring an agreement is the “honorable” thing to do, but not when this agreement is not honorable in the first place, and shouldn’t have been made to begin with. So yes, they can be very easily slammed, not only for making the despicable agreement in the first place, but even more so for the Pilate like excuse “oh, we made the agreement, now we can’t but honor it”

William says:

Oh boy

Does she think she can change things in China by suing yahoo. Of course not. This is China’s doing not yahoo’s and if she wants a change she should be protesting the Chinese Government instead of waisting her time going after Yahoo. Or maybe she just wants Yahoo’s money.

The Chinese government has been oppressing the people of china since long before Yahoo moved in. And only the people of china can change that by letting them know that it is unacceptable. The idea that US corporations are obligated to change things is naive. Their only obligation is to follow the law of the country they are doing business in.

And if the Chinese people want to blame American corporations for all their problems so be it. That seems to be what the US people do. Crying about how bad Microsoft is all the time.

Norman619 (profile) says:

“I didn’t know dissidents had such a widespread network that they were present during the internal talks between Yahoo and dictatorial Chinese government…”

You MUST be joking. I’m pretty sure the locals are 100% aware free speech does not exist there and speaking freely on ANY public network is pretty much asking to be picked up by the police/gov. To suggest they are not aware of this fact of life in their own country implies they are either ignorant or VERY stupid. I’m sure they don’t need anyone to tell them about the busienss agreements between Yahoo and the government to know this. Give them SOME credit.

bl4k0p2 says:

Re: Re:

Not only that, but consider this…

We live in a country where free speech is supposedly the law of the land, yet how many stories have we heard about “dissidents” simply evaporating from the world? Youre not safe HERE where youre SUPPOSED to have protection. How do you think it’ll be in a place where not even the illusion of protection exists? Point blank, its well known that in China you dont speak out, case closed, end of discussion. You speak you get pinched.

Also, companies dont deal in morals. Morals dont make money. Morals are mostly BAD for business becuz it would involve doing the right thing even if it costs you money, which goes against the very reason businesses exist. The minute you let something as morality dictate policy is the beginning of the end…

aluxeterna says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Also, companies dont deal in morals. Morals dont make money.”

Companies are made up of people, and people make either moral/immoral decisions. As I am a person with moral values of my own, I fully proclaim my right–no, my DUTY–to call out those fuckos who choose value systems contrary to my own. Relativism is poorly understood–of course everyone creates their own subjective value systems–but any individual who is honest with him or herself will recognize that they apply that system to every other person on Earth. Thusly, I can say that Yahoo, as well as their sympathizers, can go f themselves.

I reject out of hand the idea, so popular in our B-schools and among the stock owners of the world, that economics and human rights make equally valid value systems. If the profit motive and human rights cannot peacefully co-exist, then the problem lies in the business model itself. It is up to the managers/etc of the company to figure out a business model that does not create this moral dilemma. If they can’t, then their business should no longer exist. End of fucking discussion.

Anonymous Coward says:

Coming next from, a new search engine just for al Qaeda terrorists that helps them find websites with info on improvised explosives, money laundering, and guerilla fighter training, network with each other thru email and IM, and even share video! It will be the featured search tool on

The TV commercial with have “Death to the infidels!” instead of the Yahoo-ooooooo cowboy yodel!

Chris says:

RE: Ron Obvious

To assume I miss the point by posting an opinion only, as opposed to an argument, is jumping to conclusions not at all thought out. In my statement there’s not even an inclination as to my view on the human rights groups or not. I fully am aware of why they are doing what they’re doing. This event is getting media exposure, and the more the better no matter whose coattails you’re riding.

I merely stated that it comes to no surprise that Yahoo is doing what is good for business. And, as another commenter pointed out, morals are bad for business. The citizens and Yahoo both are fully aware of what the Chinese Government is expectant of. They want to control the flow of information within the country, and anything counter to that is going to have a bad result.

The man’s wife knows an injustice was perpetrated, and she wants something to be done about it. It’s a hell of a lot easier to get a lawyer in America to go after Yahoo, create some bad publicity, and get a bunch of activists to rant on about how bad China is, then to get ANYTHING AT ALL in her favor done in China. She’s taking the only avenue available to her.

As far as Mao being the worst murder in all time, as opposed to Hitler, well Hitler’s just a small fry in the vast scheme of things. Throughout the middle ages, Christianity killed off many more people than WWII, with all the “witch” trials, crusades, etc… Stalin himself killed off more of his own countrymen than Hitler did to any Jews in concentration camps. Hitler gets such a bad rep because it’s what we teach in our schools, that genocide is bad. But whom honesty thinks twice, let alone even knows of the situation in Darfur, or any other genocidal warlords in Africa, let alone the rest of the world? Yes the communist, corrupt, tyrannical government of China is bad. However, there is an equal amount of other parties of power out there that are just as, if not immensely worse, than China, and that’s where the light truly needs to be shed; but, not only when someone makes the public outcry via an attorney.

Nationofswine says:

Yahoo: shills for the Right-wing-duh!

I’m not surprised by this either, and neither is anyone who has used one of Yahoo’s “forums” lately, such as “Answers”, (unless they’re either supremely ignorant…well that’d be about 85% of ’em) or support Fundamentalist Christians and Republicans traipsing all over people’s Constitutional rights! Yeah, this is in a different country but if you read the report at:

you will see that Yahoo did NOT have to sign any agreement, by law, and MSN and Google did NOT do so. I maintain that Yahoo simple ENJOYS reporting people, like the classroom tattletale, who keeps getting beaten up and then whining about it! Yahoo, either grow up or SHUT UP! Even the Chinese called you a “Sell-out”! lol And so you are…

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