Congress to Investigate Yahoo's Role in Chinese Rights Case

It seems as if Yahoo, which is currently playing second fiddle to Google in many of their competing offerings including search and online video, just can't get a break these days. Today, congressional investigators have announced they plan to look into whether Yahoo officials misrepresented the Internet company's role in the arrest of Shi Tao, a Chinese journalist sentenced to a decade in jail for leaking a Communist Party document to an overseas Chinese democracy site. House Foreign Affairs Chairman Tom Lantos, a democrat from California, ordered the investigation after a human rights group released a document that it said raised questions about what Yahoo knew when it shared information with authorities about. "For a firm engaged in the information industry, Yahoo sure has a lot of secrecy to answer for," said Lantos. "We expect to learn the truth and to hold the company to account. Covering up such a despicable practice when Congress seeks an explanation is a serious offense"

Last year, shortly after Shi Tao's arrest, Yahoo's general counsel Michael Callahan had told lawmakers his company had no information about the nature of the investigation when it provided details about Shi to Chinese officials. The Dui Hua Foundation disputes these claims, releasing a document which allegedly shows the Beijing State Security Bureau requesting e-mail content about Shi for an investigation into suspected "illegal provision of state secrets to foreign entities." In response, Yahoo spokesman Jim Cullinan has stated that "there are many and various descriptions of what state secrets could be, including legitimate investigations into things like terrorism."

Any company wishing to do business with China's 100 million+ Internet users must satisfy a government which fiercely polices Internet content. Filters block objectionable foreign Web sites; regulations ban what the Chinese consider subversive and pornographic content and require service providers to enforce censorship. Search companies such as Yahoo and Google are forced to censor various sites in order to ensure continuing access to China's Internet users.

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