Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Would You Work For Moral "Pygmies?" - The Costs Of Yahoo's Actions In China

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 12, 2007

Would you work for a large Silicon Valley company whose top management was recently called "moral "pygmies" by a top California lawmaker because of its role in snitching on Chinese political dissidents?

Would you work for a Silicon Valley company that has been called a "police informant" by Reporters Without Borders because it handed over information to Chinese authorities that led to ten year prison sentences for two people--for the crime of distributing a censor's order not to write about the anniversary of the Tiananmen Protests?

You wouldn't especially since you now have a choice. We currently have very robust jobs market in SIlicon Valley where competition is fierce. A good salary is one thing but it is not enough, people care about where they work.

Yahoo has engaged in despicable acts in China and defended its actions as being right. But I bet it didn't calculate the costs of losing the respect of its own staff.

If you work for Yahoo I can guarantee that you are not holding your head high as you walk down the street. Yahoo is already experiencing a tremendous talent outflow and it is only going to increase because it did not do the right thing in China.

Take a look at my recent post on ZDNet:

Just in case you missed it, last week Yahoo! CEO Jerry Yang and its chief lawyer Michael Callahan were called to Washington DC to explain to lawmakers why Yahoo! helped the Chinese government arrest and then sentence for ten years two political dissidents.

Extracts from Zachary Coile's excellent news story for the San Francisco Chronicle:

"While technologically and financially you are giants, morally you are pygmies," House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, said at the end of the three-hour hearing.

. . .

The hearing began with Yang, who immigrated from Taiwan at age 10, entering the hearing room and bowing and apologizing to the mother of journalist Shi Tao and the wife of Internet writer Wang Xiaoning. They received 10-year sentences after being identified with the help of information from Yahoo.

The act wasn't enough for Lantos. He called on Yang and Yahoo chief counsel Michael Callahan to turn and face the dissidents' families, seated in the front row, and plead for forgiveness. "I would urge you to beg the forgiveness of the mother whose son is languishing behind bars thanks to Yahoo's actions," Lantos said. Shi's mother, Gao Qin Shen, had tears in her eyes as the two executives complied.

[Where is the YouTube clip?]

Launder Chinese data

Yahoo could have easily laundered its data of any identifiable information. I've suggested this solution: Yahoo could use a third-party located in an offshore financial center, since these have strong data privacy laws, to strip its data of any personably identifiable markers and then return aggregate behavioral data--which is much more useful data anyway. If the Chinese government orders it to reveal its data, Yahoo can comply without breaking any laws or harming its users.

Risky behavior

Yahoo and its amoral behavior in regards to its actions in China is going to be hugely expensive to the company and its shareholders, imho. Because those actions risk its key asset - its people.

Why would you stay at Yahoo when there is tremendous competition for your skills in Silicon Valley right now? You could walk across the street to any company, sit down at a desk and you've got a new job.

The Yahoo effect on limiting population growth

There are also other factors to consider as a Yahoo employee, your ability to create children, or even find a partner to practice with.

There are a lot of single people at Yahoo and likely to remain so. Software engineers in particular, are already challenged in continuing their genetic lines, it certainly won't be any easier now.

You walk into a party and inevitably that question comes up. Yes, you could fudge and say that you work for Google, [however, the do-no-evil giant is lucky it hasn't been caught (yet) in a similar snitching situation] and anyway, lying is not a good way to start any meaningful relationship.

Yahoo seems oblivious to a fundamental fact about Silicon Valley's workforce today: People do care about the moral behavior of companies and they discriminate against them by choosing not to work for them.

- - -

Please see:

Yahoo moves for dismissal of dissidents' case
By Richard Koman for SiliconValleyWatcher

Yahoo wants a federal court to dismiss Chinese dissident Shi Tao's complaint against the company for allegedly facilitating his arrest by Chinese authorities. Yahoo Monday filed a 51-page motion to dismiss, claiming that Shi's problem...

-

Chinese Dissident's Wife to Sue Yahoo

By Richard Koman for SiliconValleyWatcher

The wife of Chinese dissident has come to the US to sue Yahoo for turning over her husband's emails to Chinese authorities. He was sentenced in 2003 to 10 years in prison for publishing "subversive" articles on the Internet,...

-

Dissidents within YHOO and GOOG will make ethical companies

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

BusinessWeek recently published a news story on Reporters without Borders and its protest against Internet censorship in many countries: BusinessWeek: Nations that Censor the Net Some 17,000 attendees of the protest voted for the nation they believed is most...

-

Yahoo and Google and China - it's time to Do Some Good

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

One of the most powerful images of the 20th Century is "Tank Man" the man that walked out in front of a column of tanks -- a day after the bloody suppression of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989....

Technorati Tags:

Story link | Subscribe free | Categories: A Top Story, ChinaWatch




ForemskiInnovator.jpg

The Holmes Report names Tom Foremski one of the top 25 Innovators of 2013.




-->