Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Smoking Gun on Li Zhi

Reporters Without Borders has published the Chinese Transcripts here.

Yahoo! Notified of 500 Petitioners

Well, 503 to be exact. The spreadsheet has been sent to David Filo and Jerry Yang with the following letter:

Dear Mr. Yang and Mr. Filo,

Attached please find a spreadsheet of 500 people who have signed the petition on www.booyahoo.com. These people have all publicly stated that they are boycotting the use of some or all of Yahoo's services as a direct result of the abuses to the rights of humans that Yahoo! has taken part in.

For a company that has millions and millions of subscribers, 500 people might seem a trifle. But these 500 people are all actively angry at Yahoo's actions, and are actively involved in alerting others. Imagine a large auditorium filled with 500 people who are angry at what your company has done, and have refused to use your services. What would you say to them? I certainly hope you would not relegate their concerns to an auto-reponse engine that searches for key words in the complaint and spits out an irrelevant and illogical reply. That is what has happened in the past, and it has only helped to nurture our ill feelings toward your organization.

Yahoo's Chief Council, Michael Callahan, was recently quoted as saying, "We always reserve the right to get better."

Speaking on behalf of 500 petitioners, Mr. Yang and Mr. Filo, I'd like to ask that you exercise that right.

Get better, Yahoo!. Change your policy that dictates how Yahoo! response to requests for identities of your anonymous users from oppressive governments--especially when those governments have a history of using the information you give them to imprison people merely for dissagreeing with a local government.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Petition Status

We're nipping at the heels of 500 signatures. When we've reached that benchmark, I'm going to send another letter to Yahoo!

If you haven't signed the petition, and have chosen to boycott any or all of Yahoo's services as a result of their bad policies that have resulted in the imprisonment of cyber dissidents, please sign the petition, which is linked at the column on the right.

And a heartfelt thanks to those of you who have already signed!

Yahoo!'s Chief Council's E-mail Box is Suddenly Full Again

Yahoo! has reversed its decision to ban the use of "allah" in e-mail handles. The letters a-l-l-a-h were, for a time, not being allowed in any e-mail names.

While many believe this reversal to be a response to pressures from the general public, it's quite possible that the pressure came from within--namely their Chief Council ... Michael Callahan.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Redirect Yahoo Surfers with this Script!

This ingenius little script came to me via Delirio & Kaos, and I must admit I'm impressed.

Here's what it will do: If someone uses Yahoo!'s search engine to find your blog, the link from Yahoo! will take them to their requested page, but it will put a table at the top of the page that explains how Yahoo! is helping China put cyber-dissidents in jail, and it offers a passive invitation to find out more and take part in the boycott.

Note: I'm *not* using it on this site, as it would be redundant. But to see an example, do a Yahoo search for "Meat of the Matter" and click on the first link. That blog is using this code, and you'll see what it does.

Blogger won't allow some of the following code to appear in the body of a blog posting, so please follow these simple instructions:

1. Copy the following code:

2. Then go to this site: http://centricle.com/tools/html-entities/ and paste the code into the field, and click "decode."

3. Copy the code again into your blog template just below the "body" tag (except it has <> around it instead of quotes). Save, and you're good to go!

Thanks Delirium & Kaos!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Complete Version of The Global Online Freedom Act of 2006

Today I found a much more complete version of this bill. It does include direct language to the issue that compelling us to boycott Yahoo!.

Particularly, page 5, line 21 reads:

(14) United States technology companies have succumbed to pressure by authoritarian foreign governments to provide such governments with information about Internet users that has led to the arrest and imprisonment of cyber dissidents, in violation of the corporate responsibility of such companies to protect and and uphold human rights.

Then, on page 24, line 10:

Section 206 Integrity of User Identifying Information (a) User Protection. - Any United States business that maintains an Internet content hosting service may not provide to any foreign official of an Internet-restricting country information that personally identifies a particular user of such content hosting service, except for legitimate foreign law enforcement purposes as determined by the Department of Justice.

(b) Private Right of Action. - Any person aggrieved by a violation of this section may bring an action for damages, including punitive damages, or other appropriate relief in the appropriate district court of the United States, without regard to the amount in controversy, and without regard to the citizenship of the parties.

(Page 25) Sec. 207. Penalties (a) Civil Penalties. - (1) Any United States business or United States person that violates section 206(a) shall be fined not more than $2,000,000. ...

(Page 25, Line 9) (b) Criminal Penalties. - (1) Any United States business that willfully violates, or willfully attempts to violate section 206(a) shall be fined not more than $2,000,000, or if a natural person who is an officer, director, employee, or agent of a United States business, or stockholder acting on behalf of such United States business, shall be fined not more than $100,000, or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.

This bill, if passed, would have a remarkable effect on the very issue that BooYahoo is boycotting. My only concern is that the US Government determines which countries to which this law will be applied--and it is unlikely that the US Government would ever name itself as an internet-restricting country. The law would be more effective if enforced by an international body ... but that is an issue for a different blog.

Shi Tao Countdown

A contributor who wishes to remain anonymous (thank you!) has submitted a counter under Shi Tao's picture. This shows how many days of imprisonment Shi Tao has left.

I also created a counter for the other two known Yahoo! victims. If anyone locates a picture of Li Zhi or Jiang Lijun, please send them!

For those interested, you can simply cut-and-paste the following code and add it to your website's template for the Shi Tao portion:


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Kristof's Article Translated into Hebrew

Kristof's article was translated into Hebrew and made available free to the public on the Haaretz website. This link comes from Shamai Leibowitz. Thanks!

BooYahoo Goes Live?

I have a tentative invitation from the nice people at "GoDaddy Radio" to appear on their show tomorrow night. Here's the information for their live broadcast:

XM Satellite Radio - XM 152
152 Extreme 7pm-8pm PT

Sirius Satellite Radio - 117
Advice 7pm-8pm PT

KBNP/Portland - AM 1410
7pm-8pm PT

The roster is apparently pretty full, they may not have time for me to take part in the show, but they will be discussing the internet's involvement with Human Rights abuses in China. Lucy Morillon from "Reporters Without Borders" will be there!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Victim No. 3

The bad news in Mr. Kristof's article this morning was finding out that Yahoo! had helped the Chinese government put a 3rd dissident behind bars.

This Salon article explains that Jiang Lijun was sentenced to 4 years for attempting to set up a Democratic Liberal party (and allegedly planning a fake bomb threat, which I am sceptical of) based on evidence supplied by Yahoo!.

The article also informs us that Shi Tao is being forced to work in a jewelry factory, has lost weight, and is not allowed to write.

Hat Tip to Nicholas D. Kristof ...

... for mentioning BooYahoo in his op-ed piece in the New York Times today. Unfortunately, it's not available free online.

In his article, he gives his opinion on the height of moral outrage that Yahoo!, MSN, and Google should inspire. He concludes that Yahoo towers over the other two--and with that I heartily agree. He also offers a hopeful message (with statistics) of how the internet's presense in China is actually making a profoundly positive effect.

Thanks Mr. Kristof!

(FYI, the shorter address of www.booyahoo.com will work as well.)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Global Online Freedom Act of 2006

The new law, if passed, will make it unlawful to turn over information about users to certain governments unless the U.S. Justice Department approves. This would solve the basic problem being protested by BooYahoo. This website would potentially go away, or morph into something else. It doesn't mean that the basic nature of Yahoo! will have changed; it would only mean that their ability to do severe damage to their customers will be made illegal and would undoubtedly stop. If that happens, this boycott would be rendered effete.

Here is a complete draft of the law. I haven't read it yet, but I fear it may solve one problem and create another. Namely, as the article states, the powers of this bill are apparently broadly defined.

However, Reporters Without Borders' Lucie Morillon offers a glimmer of hope. "Our first reaction would be that hopefully this hearing and all this congressional and media attention is going to push the companies themselves at some point to regulate themselves ..."

I hope you are right, Ms. Morillon, because there is a certain irony to a Congressional Bill with "Freedom" in the title. Freedom cannot be legislated. It exists naturally, and legislation can only curb freedoms.

One portion of the bill prohibits censorship as dictated by an "internet restricting country," but continues to allow censorship as dictated by the US and its friends. While these few censored items may seem justifiable now, there is some degree of certainty that in the future, unjust censorship will occur.

However, Google's Elliot Schrage, who is someone I can't help but like, is cautiously agreeing to the bill.

UPDATE: After reading this bill, I am left with a very large question mark over my head. The language is extremely broad, and does nothing specific other than appropriate funds to technology that prevents internet jamming, and set up an office of Global Internet Freedom, which will "implement" a "comprehensive global strategy" to combat internet jamming and persecution by a named list of 10 repressive governments.

Apparently much of the conversation with the Big 4 yesterday was hypothetical.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

US Feds Will Govern Those Who Would Not Govern Themselves

From left, Mark Chandler of Cisco, Elliot Schrage of Google, Jack Krumholtz of Microsoft and Michael Callahan of Yahoo at the hearing today.

In a New York Times article today by Tom Zeller, Jr., a House Subcommittee plans to introduce legislation by this weekend that would restrict an Internet company's ability to censor or filter basic political or religious terms. The legislation would also establish standards for internet companies operating abroad. Whether these standards include the criteria required to reveal an anonymous e-mailer’s identity to a foreign government was not specified.

In another Tom Zeller article, Republican Christopher Smith of New Jersey offered some harsh criticisms for US-based Internet companies for “sickening collaboration" with the Chinese government and for "decapitating the voice of the dissidents" there. California Democrat Tom Lantos also said, "I do not understand how your corporate leadership sleeps at night." Well said, Mr. Smith and Mr. Lantos!

"We always reserve the right to get better," Mr. Callahan, Yahoo's general counsel, said in a phone call last weekend. Way to stand up for your rights, Mr. Callahan!

While this may sound like an encouraging development, it does not necessarily bode well for the future of freedoms currently enjoyed by internet users. Since these four companies (Yahoo!, Google, MSN, and Cisco) did not govern themselves when dealing with China, it is becoming apparent that they may have to answer to a higher authority with regard to how they will do business abroad, and ultimately in the US as well.

Today, the US Government is inserting its legislation into the internet world in what appears to be a very positive manner. However, this may subject industry leaders to future legislation that is not so positive.

No government is beyond reproach, and the US government has specifically been under fire lately for its apparent lack of concern for personal privacy and civil rights. The warrantless wiretapping of phones has been at the forefront of several news cycles, but what has slipped by practically unnoticed is that these thousands of intrusions have included warrantless monitoring of e-mail as well. Is this the governing body we want guaranteeing the freedom of internet users in the US and abroad?

If the US Government has appointed itself the official policeman over the internet, shame on the Big-4 internet companies for letting it happen.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Yahoo! Seeks Help

This is a promising development.

At least they are admitting that there is a problem.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

2nd Victim

It was reported in Reuters today that Li Zhi, a Chinese writer and activist, was sentenced to 8 years in prison in China after Yahoo! revealed his identity to Chinese authorities.

Reporters Without Borders has called upon Yahoo! to reveal the names of all the cyberdissidents whose identities they have revealed to the Chinese Secret Police. "The firm says it simply responds to requests from the authorities for data without ever knowing what it will be used for. But this argument no longer holds water. Yahoo certainly knew it was helping to arrest political dissidents and journalists, not just ordinary criminals. The company must answer for what it is doing at the US congressional hearing set for February 15."

Li is a 35-year-old ex-civil servant, and was sentenced on December 10, 2003 to eight years in prison for "inciting subversion." He had been arrested the previous August after he used an online discussion group to criticize the corruption of local officials. According to one website, Mr. Li has Hepatitis B in jail, and his condition is worsening.

According to Reporters Without Borders, 49 cyberdissidents and 32 journalists are in prison in China for posting on the Internet articles and criticism of the authorities.

How many of these wrongfully imprisoned were rooted out with Yahoo!'s help?

Please, help us by boycotting Yahoo! This organization needs to change this despicable practice.

(Note: The picture I posted was of another man with a very similar name, who was alos a prisoner of conscience in China. If anyone can locate a picture of Mr. Li, I would appreciate it.)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Amnesty Intervenes

Amnesty, International has called upon Yahoo! to use its influence with China to help free Shi Tao from prison.

I seriously hope Yahoo! complies with this, but I've grown pessimistic. Yahoo! would have to change its policy first, or be in a constant error loop of trying to influence China to release people they've helped imprison.

The article also has a form letter that they are asking people to send to the Yahoo! brass.

I'm sending it.