Rebecca MacKinnon is doing a great job of keeping up with the Chinese censorship story at her blog, both the hearings at Congress and the Shi Tao case with lots of links to original sources, analysis and quotes from Chinese bloggers as well. She doesn't let Yahoo! off the hook (hey, I'm not sure I do either), but she's definitely helping clarify and correct some of the outrageous crap we've been hearing online and in the news. Definitely check out EastSouthWestNorth as well for info, and the BooYahoo Boycott blog for the extreme other side.

My opinion (which as you know is mine, and mine alone) about this is pretty clear: Yahoo! had the right idea about getting into China originally, agreeing to abide by their laws and their Government's restrictive self-censorship terms in hopes of being a force for good over the long term. I remember hearing Jerry Yang's thoughtful and compelling reasoning about the topic during an interview at the first Web 2.0 conference (near the end of the interview), and wholely agreeing with his logic. Remember Jerry is a Tawainese native and obviously has a very personal interest in this himself. But time goes on, and if the original strategy isn't working, then we need to change it. This is already happening I guess - Yahoo! only owns 40% of the business in China now - which isn't some sort of political cover, but a realization that working in China, both from a business and governmental standpoint, takes on the ground knowledge and responsibility.

I really like my company, who we are and what we do - if I didn't I wouldn't work there, simple as that. We're not evil, in fact I think we do good and all of us are working to do more good things every day. We're not mindless corporate drones either, and we're definitely not akin to Nazi sympathizers (can you BELIEVE that was said? Not just in a congressional hearing, but in today's NYT? Amazing.) If Yahoo! has one major fault, it's one of extreme pragmatism, which I've complained about before, but we're not heartless. In fact, I actually would love to see us give some money to the families of the reporters as has been suggested - maybe even diverting some Yahoo Employee Foundation funds that way. (I'll sheepishly admit that I actually haven't given anything to that until today). But I don't think we should disengage from China (quite the opposite in fact from my point of view - considering what a mobile powerhouse it's becoming), but I don't think we as a company should be given the burden of fighting the US government's battle with China over human rights either. If you worked for an an International company and they asked you to break American laws or ignore a warrant or something, would you?

Again, this is just my opinion. Hopefully going forward Yahoo! and other companies find a real solution to making sure stuff like this doesn't continue to happen - though I doubt that'll be an easy or quick fix as it's ultimately up to the Chinese government to change their laws - a technical solution would probably just mean an outright banning of the company's website altogether if they failed to respond to an information request. I personally want to launch more Y! mobile services in China, and want to make sure they're safe from this sort of thing as well, so it's an issue that definitely concerns me.


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