The branding experts did a good job with Yahoo!. Everything about the Internet giant evokes a groovy vibe--from the name itself to the company's bright purple colors, wacky font and fabled Silicon Valley work culture. Creativity, innovation and freedom are the catch-words Yahoo! wants people to associate with its brand. The problem now is that the company is actively colluding with the Chinese government to help identify Internet dissidents to be thrown in jail. Not cool.
"Yahoo! has a Chinese-language portal hosted inside China, with a search engine that filters out all websites and keywords deemed unacceptable by Chinese authorities," writes former CNN Beijing Bureau Chief Rebecca MacKinnon in a recent Nation online exclusive. "It does not inform users that the content is being censored in any way. Yahoo! also offers a Chinese-language e-mail service hosted on computer servers inside the People's Republic. Because the user data is under Chinese legal jurisdiction, Yahoo! is obligated to comply with Chinese police requests to hand over information. Such compliance over the past several years has led to the jailing of at least three dissidents."
An Amnesty International report adds that, "investigatiions reveal that of four American Internet technology companies operating in China – Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft, and Cisco -- Yahoo! has most actively aided repressive forces in China, by helping to jail political dissidents."
Prominent Chinese blogger Zhao Jing singles out Yahoo! for even greater scorn than Microsoft, the company that complied with the Chinese government's request to shut down his blog. "A company such as Yahoo! which gives up information [about dissidents] is unforgivable," he said in an interview with Fortune. "It would be for the good of the Chinese netizens if such a company could be shut down or get out of China forever." (Zhao continues to post in Chinese at http://anti.blog-city.com, which is available overseas but blocked in China. Some of his recent posts can be read in English at rconversation, which is maintained by MacKinnon, now a research fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society.)
As a publicly traded company, Yahoo! can be very sensitive to public outcry. And this issue should have a relatively easy time gaining traction. Most people of all political stripes--other than extremist wackos (both left and right) and those with lots of Yahoo stock--can get behind a campaign calling on one of America's most well-known companies to stop aiding Communist China's repressive tactics.
So take Amnesty's suggestion and click here to tell Yahoo! that if it wants your business then it better stop helping authoritarian governments repress their citizens in the countries in which it operates. Media attention can also really help. So click here to find contact info for your local newspapers and talk radio stations.