Wall Street Journal: Yahoo Defends China Cooperation. Yahoo’s Terry Semel faced tough questions from Walt Mossberg — and the audience — over the search company’s decision to comply with requests for user data from the Chinese government, which has used the information to pursue dissidents.
I’m one of the audience members who asked Semel a question. He did not offer any kind of persuasive reply, because there’s no good way to defend his company’s cooperation with the Chinese authorities.
In my own question I channeled Berkman Center colleague Rebecca MacKinnon, who has appropriately noted that Yahoo “chose to provide an e-mail service hosted on servers based inside China, making itself subject to Chinese legal jurisdiction.” Semel’s answer was both evasive and condescending.
He pointed out that Yahoo put those servers there a while ago, and then said Yahoo’s China presence is controlled by a partner to which it sold a majority share there. This is trying to have it both ways, and it insults people’s intelligence; Yahoo’s name is on the service, after all.
Then he sniffily said his company could do more for human rights than a small NGO (I think he meant the Berkman Center, but I’m not sure). This would be true if Yahoo stopped being such a handmaiden to the dictators.
Semel was also downright misleading when asked about Yahoo’s willing cooperation with a U.S. government fishing expedition of search data — while Yahoo and Microsoft cooperated, Google responsibly did not. He said this data mining operation was about child pornography, and of course who’s going to object to going after child porn, right?
I’m not sure which is more disturbing, Semel’s deceptions or his lack of preparation for questions he surely knew he’d be asked.
Still, to his credit, he showed up to face the questions. His competitors at Google refused. Shame on them.