Posted Apr 19, 2007 05:16 pm CDT
Yahoo has effectively disclosed the identities of some Chinese users of its e-mail service to the Chinese government, leading to their imprisonment and even torture in that country, according to a lawsuit filed by international human rights activists yesterday.
The 34-page suit, filed in federal court in San Francisco, contends that the Internet giant was complicit in the arrest of pro-Democracy writers in China, including Wang Xiaoning, 57, who is a plaintiff in the suit, and other Internet activists. It argues that Yahoo’s alleged disclosure of information that allowed the Chinese government to identify these anonymous users of Yahoo’s e-mail system violated U.S. civil rights law, according to news reports in the the L.A. Times, the Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle.
A Yahoo spokesman says the company condemns suppression of speech but must comply with laws of foreign countries in which it does business. “Yahoo is distressed that citizens in China have been imprisoned for expressing their political views online,” Jim Cullinan, director of public affairs for the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company, is quoted saying.
Yahoo has no way of knowing why information is being requested, Cullinan says. “No company would know if it is for a legitimate criminal investigation, or if it’s a matter of public safety, or it’s being used to prosecute political dissidents.”
He called for the U.S. State Department to make efforts to resolve such international human rights issues.