Thursday, April 19, 2007


"Everyone's interested in the Internet--especially dictators."
~ Julien Pain, Internet Freedom Desk, RSF.

Good news! Yahoo is being sued for forking over information on Chinese dissidents to the Chinese government, from Computer World:

Washington-based World Organization for Human Rights USA has filed a lawsuit against Yahoo Inc. for allegedly providing information to Chinese authorities that led to the persecution, torture and imprisonment of four Chinese dissidents.

The lawsuit was filed yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

[ . . . ]

According to the lawsuit, Yahoo's Hong Kong subsidiary (Yahoo HK) provided information to Chinese authorities that led to the imprisonment of Xiaoning, a writer, on charges of incitement to subvert state power, a human rights group said.

Wang was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in September 2003, due in part to writings distributed over the Internet.

[ . . . ]

Yahoo spokesman Jim Cullinan said Yahoo is distressed that citizens in China have been imprisoned for expressing their political views on the Internet.

"We call on the U.S. Department of State to continue making this issue of free expression a priority in bilateral and multilateral forums with the Chinese, as well as through other tools of trade and diplomacy, in order to help secure the freedom of these dissidents," he said.

There's a short report (approx. 3 mins.) on this from NPR, and more at the NYTimes.

Yeah, I'm sure Yahoo's really torn up about the "persecution, imprisonment, and torture" of a few nobody-dissenters in China, and I'm sure the State Department will get top people right on that freedom of expression thing . . . when pigs fly.

What this means, boys and girls, is that the legal door is open and a precedent may be coming. Potentially it means that big Internet businesses can be hung out to dry as accomplices to the crimes of governments like China, or Iran, Syria, or Turkey . . . since Turkey is so hot to get on the Internet censorship bandwagon.

Check out the BBC for a little something on anonymity. They even mention one of my all-time favorite programs--Tor.

For email security, try PGP or GPG for Windows, a variation of GnuPG. SimpLite offers free encryption for instant messaging clients, including MSN, Yahoo, ICQ/AIM, and Jabber/Google. Another option for instant messaging is ScatterChat.

For those with families living in countries that censor the Internet, there's a way around at Psiphon. If you want (or need) an anonymous USB key, check out Traveling Forever's "How to Protect Yourself From Big Brother." There's an open source disk or USB flash drive encryption at Truecrypt

And the handbook for cyber-dissidents that the BBC article referred to? It's right here, at RSF.

Another means of battling censorship is through activist shareholders, as Google recently found out, from the TimesOnline:

Shareholder activists are gaining strength in the US as corporations such as Google, the world’s biggest internet company, and ExxonMobil, the largest oil producer, come under fire from special-interest groups.

The New York State Pension Funds, one of the biggest and most powerful investors in the US, has got a resolution included on Google’s proxy form that could dramatically affect the way that the company does business if it gains the support of a majority of shareholders.

The New York pension funds, which own 486,617 shares of Google class-A stock, demand that Google implement a clear code of conduct to protect users from being monitored by what they consider oppressive foreign regimes.

The funds outlined a six-point agenda in the proxy demanding that Google should not host user information in countries that restrict internet usage, such as Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The group also demands that Google should pledge not to engage in censorship, using all means at its disposal to fight government demands to restrict access to certain information.

Google made clear its opposition to the proposed resolution by urging shareholders to vote against it, adding that all blank ballots would be taken as a vote against the proposal.

"Google made clear its opposition . . . " Well, if shareholders can't bend these Internet companies to their will, maybe a lawsuit will . . . as Yahoo is about to find out. When it comes to the bottom line, the only way to get their attention is by attacking the bottom line, and that's what this is really all about anyway--business deals and money. The Google shareholders at New York State Pension Funds should be applauded for standing on principle and demanding ethical and moral behavior from those businesses in which they have invested. I mean, this is a very rare thing.

For more on Internet censorship, and the complicity of Western companies, see RSF's 2006 Annual Report. Page 107 begins the Internet section.

In other news, the AP reports that five others have been detained in the murder of the Christian publishers in Malatya.

As for the star-crossed lovers, Wolfowitz and Riza, there's a round-up of commentary on the subject at the Winter Patriot, including a link to yours truly. Also from Down Under by Lukery at Wot Is It Good 4, with the additional news that Shaha Ali Riza worked with Dick Cheney's daughter, Elizabeth, at State.

And so the plot thickens.

No comments: