Yahoo! on Trial for Telling Secrets

Dennis Faas's picture

Yahoo! is facing legal accusations for denying the fact that it provided Chinese authorities with information in order to help them pursue political opponents.

According to the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, Yahoo! released private data concerning a Chinese journalist, Shi Tao. As a result of Yahoo's tattle, Tao was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment for posting on a website called Democracy Forum.

Although Yahoo! denies knowing the charges, reports suggest that before it disclosed knowledge about Tao, Yahoo! officials received a document from the Beijing State Security Bureau. The notice read, "According to investigation, your office is in possession of the following items relating to a case of suspecting illegal provision of state secrets to foreign entities that is currently under investigation by our bureau." Data obtained for a case concerning this subject is often used to capture political protestors. (Source:

Yahoo! proceeded to fulfill the request of the authorities. It handed over email details, log in times, and IP addresses that Tao encountered between February 2004 until April 2004. Currently, Yahoo! is being confronted with legal battles in both China and the United States as a result of its actions.

As for the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, it has nothing kind to say about Yahoo! at the moment. In the words of the committee's chairman, Tom Lantos, "It is bad enough that a wealthy American company would willingly supply Chinese police the means to hunt a man down for shedding light on repression in China. Covering up such a despicable practice when Congress seeks an explanation is a serious offense. For a firm engaged in the information industry, Yahoo! sure has a lot of secrecy to answer for. We expect to learn the truth, and to hold the company to account." (Source:

Tao is not only appealing his sentence in China, but he is also fighting for damages against Yahoo! in U.S. courtrooms.

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