Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Thanks to Jim Hightower

Last Thursday I got a curious spike in hits. Most of them seemed to be direct hits, so I figured someone on the radio or TV mentioned BooYahoo!.

Sure enough, I found the source to be Jim Hightower. Mr. Hightower is a radio host (among other things) from Texas, and calls himself a "progressive optimist in the age of Bush II."

I noted that Mr. Hightowers listeners didn't just visit this site. Many of them followed through and signed the petition. Mr. Hightower's listeners are people of action!

Thanks Jim Hightower!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Saying Boo to Flickr Too ...

Flicker is one of Yahoo!'s most loved tools. But many people are extending their Boycotts to this as well, as evidenced by "Madjag's" recent addition.

I must admit it is strange to see the "BooYahoo" phrase popping up in so many places. Many thanks Madjag!

While I am not a user of Flickr or any image-hosting services. I did a quick search and found the following links to free image hosting services. I can't recommend them, but you Flickr users might want to check them out:


Let me know your feedback on these (or other) sites please! Thanks :)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Yahoo's Response

Yahoo!'s response is below. It's from Rex in Customer Care. It further justifies our boycott.

Please note the very first sentence. It indicates that Yahoo believes that we netizens share no concern for abuses that don't occur in our own country. Either that or Rex did not comprehend my letter.

Note to Yahoo!: There is one internet. If it's poisoned in China, the entire organism is poisoned.

Another note to Yahoo!: By having no standards, your "terms of service" are as oppressive as any country wherein you operate. Your response is akin to the Nuremberg Defense. It didn't fly in Nuremberg, and it won't fly here.

Yahoo operates under the assumption that people do not care enough about this policy to make sacrifices. Even though a boycott on Yahoo! is a small sacrifice, it's the only way that Yahoo will believe that people do care.

For all you people who have boycotted Yahoo! so far, you can nurture your ire in knowing that your sacrifice did not make it past Rex.

Yet ....


The issue in China that you refer to is specific to that country and will not affect customers who have registered with Yahoo! in other countries. Just like any other global company, Yahoo! must ensure that its local country sites operate within the laws and regulations of the country in which they are based.

By registering with or using the services of a local Yahoo! web site, a person has agreed to that local country site's respective Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which comply with the local laws of the country in which that web site is based. Yahoo! customers who are not registered with or use a Yahoo! China web site are not subject to CN data disclosure laws.

Links to the applicable Terms of Service and Privacy Policy can be found at the bottom of every Yahoo! website.



Yahoo! Customer Care

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Letter to Jerry Yang

This was just sent to Jerry Yang, with the current list of petitioners attached:

Dear Mr. Yang,

The attached document is a list of people who have signed the petition against Yahoo! on www.booyahoo.com. Each of these people has agreed to discontinue use of Yahoo!'s services until Yahoo! adapts international privacy policies that allows for freedom of speech--wherever that speech may be occurring. The incarceration of Shi Tao served as a catalyst for this boycott.

These petitioners are not just armchair activists; they represent people who are so incensed by the outcome of Yahoo!'s policy that they have taken action to sever ties with your organization. Each one of them is doing their small part to spread the word about this boycott against Yahoo. Though this is a small beginning, their efforts are helping the website to gain momentum. It has already gotten noticed by Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International, and the New York Times. Until the Boycott is lifted, this momentum will continue.

However, there is nothing I would like more than to lift the Boycott against Yahoo!. If you visit the website, you will see that I'm not a mere flame-thrower, but have taken a reasoned approach to finding a solution. Any of the following solutions would not only cause me to lift this boycott, but I believe they would also send a
signal to the industry, and place Yahoo! in the leading role once again:

1. Amend your privacy statement. Currently, it reads as follows:

• We believe it is necessary to share information in order to investigate, prevent, or take action regarding illegal activities, suspected fraud, situations involving potential threats to the physical safety of any person, violations of Yahoo!'s terms of use, or as otherwise required by law.

We believe that this policy is too simple for the complicated issues that face a multi-national Internet provider, and it would be better if stated as such:

• We believe it is necessary to share information in order to investigate, prevent, or take action regarding illegal activities, suspected fraud, situations involving potential threats to the physical safety of any person, violations of Yahoo!'s terms of use, or as otherwise required by law. Yahoo’s legal team will review each request to ensure compliance with international law, and to prevent human rights abuses.

2. Submit each request to a neutral third party who will review requests for compliance with International Law, and to prevent human rights abuses.

a. Such a group does not currently exist, but Yahoo! is in a unique position to request such a group to be formed. This might be accomplished through a special proceeding of the UN, or by non-profit group such as the International Commission of Jurists.

3. Work with other companies who are similarly involved in the world market (MSN, Google, Cisco, etc.) to set up a legal consortium that will review all legal requests to ensure compliance with International law and basic human rights.

Mr. Yang I realize that Yahoo! is morally neutral, and exists to provide profits to its shareholders. There is no shame in that. However, Yahoo! is unique in the world market in that its product is inextricably linked with the basic human right of free speech. While Yahoo! attempted to expand into foreign markets, you made your organization vulnerable to oppressive policies in those countries. While I would like to believe that Yahoo! has the best intentions to uphold human rights in those countries, you have given us no indication to that this is the case.

I am anxiously awaiting your reply.


Jim Etchison
Pomona, California

"... that which purifies us is trial, and trial is by what is
contrary" John Milton, Areopagetica, 1644


Reporters Without Borders adds coverage regarding their press conference from earlier this week.

The downloadable PDF shows a list of investment companies, and their statement of their commitment to invest in companies that uphold human rights. The implication is that they will not invest in "guilty" companies.

Now if I could only figure out a way to move my 401k over to this group ...

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Corporate Reponsibility and Freedom of Expression

Reporters Without Borders is holding a press conference in New York on November 7th. I was graciously invited to attend, but am unable.

Here is a snippet of what will be covered:

"Following Reporters Without Borders’ lead, 25 North American, European, and Australian investment funds and other organizations, who collectively represent over 21 billion dollars under management, have endorsed a joint statement in which they affirm their commitment to freedom of expression on the Internet, and in which they agree, among other things, to monitor business practices being implemented in repressive countries by Internet-sector companies."

The full article can be read here.

This is, in my opinion, a step toward an actual solution.

Solving the Problem

The collision of technology and culture has resulted in an unanticipated dilemma. Multi-national internet corporations are finding themselves faced with puzzling decisions that force them to choose between their primary goal of growing their business, and the goal expected of them by the free world: the preservation of the freedom of speech.

Recent events have transpired in China that show how these multi-national internet corporations are ill-equipped to play the role of legal arbitor and international diplomat. Hypothetically, Yahoo! may be given a court order from one country to reveal the identity of an internet user who is molesting children. On the same day Yahoo! might be given a court order from another country to reveal the identity of a poet who is disliked by a high-ranking official.

How is Yahoo! equipped to know the validity of one court-order, and the potential abuses that would arise from the other? They clearly are not. But by doing business with China, they have placed themselves in this precarious place. So has Google and MSN.

If this coalition of organizations were also willing to set up a group of qualified legal reviewers to go over these court orders, as a free and voluntary service to internet providers faced with similar circumstances, we might actually solve this issue.

I propose that all internet providers jointly agree to voluntarily submit court orders such as those used to divulge Shi Tao's identity to this neutral group. This body of voluntary specialists could review each case, and make a recommendation for the internet companies to follow. If such a procedure were put in place, Yahoo! could merely take the group's recommendations. This would do less damage to the relationship between Yahoo! and any host country, and also allow for the preservation of the basic human right of free speech without obstructing justice in potentially valid requests for identity.

Outside of this neutral 3rd party, Yahoo! is still responsible for making these decisions themselves, and they will likely opt for profits over human rights.