Yahoo settled a lawsuit on Nov. 13 brought by two Chinese journalists who were arrested based on information the Internet search giant provided to the Chinese government. Terms of the settlement, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, were not disclosed.
According to the suit, one journalist, Shi Tao, was sentenced to ten years in jail for breaking state secrecy laws. Reportedly the Chinese government requested information about Shi from Yahoo, and Yahoo turned over e-mail messages in which Shi contacted human rights groups about the Chinese government's policy barring media coverage of the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests.
The suit alleges that the other journalist, Wang Xiaoning, was arrested in 2002 after Yahoo HK gave Chinese authorities information that linked Wang to anonymous e-mails and Web-based political writings. Wang also faces a ten-year jail sentence.
Last week Yahoo CEO and Co-founder Jerry Yang and General Counsel Michael Callahan apologized before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs for providing the information and withholding a document that showed Yahoo was aware of the nature of the Chinese government's requests. House lawmakers blasted Yahoo and directed Yang and Callahan to "beg the forgiveness" of the dissidents' families, including Shi's mother, who was present at the hearing.
"I ... know that governments around the world have imprisoned people for simply speaking their minds online," Yang told the Committee. "That runs counter to all my personal and professional beliefs." Yang and Callahan said their China-based employees would have been arrested if they had not provided the information.
Rep. Tom Lantos, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee and who called Yang and Callahan moral "pygmies" at the hearing last week, said in a Nov. 13 statement, "It took a tongue-lashing from Congress before these high-tech titans did the right thing and coughed up some concrete assistance for the family of a journalist whom Yahoo had helped send to jail. In my view, today's settlement is long overdue."