WASHINGTON - Internet giant Yahoo Inc. had to pass documents to the Chinese government that led to the conviction of a local journalist because the company must follow local laws, co-founder Jerry Yang said yesterday.
Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based media rights group, accused Yahoo last week of helping Chinese authorities to convict Shi Tao, a reporter for the daily Dangdai Shang Bao. Tao was sentenced in April to 10 years in prison for sending a Chinese government memo about the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre to foreign Web sites, the group said.
"The government asked for the documents and backed it up with a court order," said Yang, who was speaking at an Internet conference in Hangzhou, China, yesterday. "We had to hand over the documents. We have to comply with the law."
Yahoo helped the investigation by linking Shi's Yahoo e-mail account to the memo, Reporters Without Borders said.
"We know Yahoo has been collaborating with the Chinese government on censorship issues, that's well known," Julien Pain, head of the group's Internet monitoring group in Paris, told the Los Angeles Times last week. "We guessed they might also be helping the Chinese government identify cyber dissidents, tracking people down. It's the first time we have proof they are doing this."
The case highlights challenges that U.S. Internet companies face in China, a country where the Web is subject to state censorship and businesses must deal with the changing government regulations.
Yang was attending an Internet conference sponsored by Alibaba.com Corp., China's biggest online commerce company.
The company acquired Chinese keyword search engine 3721 Network Software Co. in January 2004 and agreed last month to pay $1 billion for 40 percent of Alibaba.com, China's biggest online retailer.