Yesterday, the high-profile media watch group Reporters Without Borders accused Yahoo! of providing data to the Chinese government leading to the imprisonment of "cyberdissident" Li Zhi. (For the record, it appears that Li Zhi’s crime was criticism of corruption in local officials, according to Reporters Without Borders.) The non-profit organization has since requested that Yahoo! supply a list of all cyberdissidents they have provided data on.
The internet search giant has responded by stating that it has merely responded to government requests as it is legally required to, and without knowledge of the government’s reasons for their demands. This claim, of course, has not made them very popular. It seems highly unlikely that Yahoo! was unaware of the most probable uses of the data they provided.
For all the uproar about Google’s censored entrance into the Chinese search engine market, it can’t be denied that Yahoo! has so far demonstrated the most problematic involvement.
Yahoo and Google both claim that they must follow the laws of the country in which they are operating. How long will it be before Google feels the same pressures to reveal information? Google has already demonstrated an unwillingness to bend to the US Government on this point, suggesting the possibility that they may behave better under pressures from the Chinese government, as well.
Time will tell. For now, I’ll be using Google.