Yahoo Settles Jailed Journalist Case

November 16th, 2007 - 9:11 pm ICT by admin  

Bowing to pressure from Congress last week, and legal challenges in court, Yahoo on Tuesday agreed to settle the lawsuit filed against it by Human Rights USA.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in April 2007, sought to hold Yahoo accountable for handing over identifying Internet user information of Chinese journalist Shi Tao and prodemocracy writer Wang Xiaoning to Chinese authorities.

The two journalists reportedly were abused and tortured. Both men are serving 10-year sentences under the charges of “subversion of state power” and “sharing state secrets.”

Sending a Message

While the details of the settlement agreement with the prisoners’ families remain private, the issues raised in the lawsuit and during last week’s Congressional hearings shine a spotlight on law enforcement requests to identify Internet users.

“The message that’s conveyed both from the Congressional hearings and the Yahoo settlement is that it’s important for U.S. companies engaged in technology activities abroad to recognize they can’t just look at the domestic laws in the countries in which they operate,” said Morton Sklar, executive director of Human Rights USA.

“They must pay attention to U.S. laws and international human rights standards as well,” Sklar added. “And they will be called on the carpet, just the way Yahoo was, if they fail to recognize their responsibilities go beyond following requests of host governments.”

Ultimately, Sklar went on to say, Yahoo did not want to be on the wrong side of human rights and free speech issues. He challenged Yahoo and other Internet companies to commit to keeping the Internet a vehicle for the free expression of ideas and speech rather than defending censorship and restrictions.

Congressional Pressure

Sklar said he does not underestimate the impact of Congressional pressure Yahoo faced on its decision to settle. But he said there was also…

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