In a preemptive strike against congressional critics of its China conduct, Yahoo said yesterday the private sector cannot "effectively influence" foreign government censorship policies and human rights violations.
That problem, Yahoo contends, is best solved by "government-to-government dialogue."
Yahoo, along with Google, Microsoft and Cisco, are under fire for their open cooperation with the Chinese government's efforts to block certain search engine results and to ferret out Internet dissidents critical of Beijing's repressive regime.
The four iconic Internet firms are expected to take hostile fire from a House International Relations subcommittee hearing on China's Web policies Wednesday morning.
While never mentioning China by name, Yahoo issued a two-page statement Monday admitting to the "challenging and complex" issues of doing business in a global marketplace.
"We are deeply concerned by efforts of governments to restrict and control open access to information and communication," Yahoo stated. "We also firmly believe the continued presence and engagement of companies like Yahoo is a powerful force in promoting openness and reform."
Lawmakers expect to hit Yahoo in particular with hard questions about its role in turning over users' names to Beijing. Last week, Reporters Without Borders blasted Yahoo, claiming the company gave up the name of cyber dissident Li Zhi, who was imprisoned for eight years in 2003.
Yahoo has also been accused of helping Beijing trace the email of Chinese journalist Shi Tao, who was sending messages to human rights organizations. Tao is now serving a 10-year prison sentence.
At China's request, Microsoft last month shut down the blog of online journalist Zhao Jing. Microsoft's China portal also blocks terms such as "freedom" and "democracy" in blogs.
Google will be expected to explain its decision to agree to censor search terms in return for obtaining a license to operate a local version of Google in China.
"Several of the top U.S. Internet companies have aided and complied with the Chinese government's demand for censorship in order to enter the PRC market, in essence becoming a megaphone for communist propaganda and a tool for controlling public opinion," the House subcommittee's statement on Wednesday's hearing claims.
Yahoo and the other firms claim they are only following the laws of the countries they operate in.
"We offer localised content in more than 20 countries in a dozen languages. We recognize each country enacts its own laws in accordance with its own local norms and mores, and we must comply with applicable laws," Yahoo said. "We also believe our presence significantly benefits a country's citizens through access to services and information."
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