Friday, September 23, 2005

Adieu Yahoo

Since I first heard the story about Shi Tao, I've had an uneasy feeling about Yahoo and other multinational companies who are doing business in countries like China, where human rights are restricted to oppressive levels.

Many of you know about Shi Tao. For those who don't, he is a Chinese reporter who will be spending ten years in prison for sending an email to foreign media that outlined the Chinese government's clamp down on information related to the Anniversary of Tiananmen Square.

Yahoo, provided the details about the journalist's identity to Chinese officials.

I fully understand that Yahoo MIGHT have been legally required under Chinese law to deliver Shi Tao to the lions, but now every time I see their logo I only think about that individual who is being punished for trying to broaden human rights - while Yahoo, in an effort to gain even more market share, allows those rights to remain oppressed and restricted.

What if China were pro-slavery? Would that be ok? How much will we tolerate? Will there be a rally to pull out of China as there was in South Africa? Unlikely that it will ever happen. China represents a far too crucial emerging market. What a foolish choice it would be for an American company like Yahoo to operate on principles that value human rights and risk being locked out of all that potential revenue! It won't happen.

I am not in favor of strong-arming democracy into other cultures that haven't invited it in. I don't think we should storm into ANY country and say here's how to do it. (We often don't get it quite right ourselves) But I when there are clear injustices I would hope we, and the companies we own, manage and patronize, take every opportunity to say - hey, here's another way that might be worth exploring. Or even, take a firm stand when called for and say: This is wrong. We're not going to play here with cowardly bullies.

Anyway. We all make the choices that are right for us. Today I chose to cancel my Yahoo membership, including reluctantly unsubscribing from the artistamp list which I totally enjoyed and will miss.

The righter choice for me is to not support an American company I feel traded a chance to take a stand toward making the world a more livable place - worldwide - essentially for money. The world has become too small - when injustices occur across the globe, it feels like it could be happening in Ohio. Yahoo was critical in shrinking the world through communication - it should be instrumental in forging a planet of common decency.


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