Financial Times is reporting that Yahoo! in the United States has finally admitted it was not forthcoming in the case of handing over information that got journalist Shi Tao jailed in China.
When Yahoo executive Michale Callahan testified in front of Congress, February 15, 2006, he said that “we” (Yahoo as a collective entity it seems) did not know the nature of the investigation:
The Shi Tao case raises profound and troubling questions about basic human rights. Nevertheless, it is important to lay out the facts. When Yahoo! China in Beijing was required to provide information about the user, who we later learned was Shi Tao, we had no information about the nature of the investigation. Indeed, we were unaware of the particular facts surrounding the case until the news story emerged. [link]
Now Callahan admits Yahoo “had additional information.”
A top Yahoo official who has come under fire for the companyâ€™s role in the 2004 imprisonment of a dissident in China apologised on Thursday for failing to tell US lawmakers that Yahoo knew more about the case than he initially acknowledged in testimony last year.
Michael Callahan, Yahooâ€™s executive vice president and general counsel, said in a statement ahead of a congressional hearing next week that he â€œrealisedâ€ that Yahoo had additional information about the nature of the probe into one of its users, Shi Tao, a journalist now serving a 10-year prison sentence in China, months after he testified that Yahoo had â€œno informationâ€ about the investigation.
Apparently, they are putting the blame on a communication breakdown between the US office and China operations.
â€œMonths after I testified before two House subcommittees on Yahooâ€™s approach to business in China, I realised Yahoo had additional information about a 2004 order issued by the Chinese government seeking information about a Yahoo China user,â€ Mr Callahan said in the statement. [...]
â€œI neglected to directly alert the committee of this new information and that oversight led to a misunderstanding that I deeply regret and have apologised to the committee for creating,â€ Mr Callahan said.
He added that in consultations with committee staff they agreed that his 2006 testimony was â€œtruthfulâ€.
He is expected to testify that a lawyer for Yahoo in Asia failed to brief him on the order because the lawyer did not believe it was significant.
It’s good to see Yahoo finally acknowledge what was so painfully obvious after documents were released that proved their Congressional testimony was erroneous. But there are still questions going forward.
Yahoo could still be vulnerable to future human rights-related cases involving Yahoo China, since Alibabaâ€™s boss, Jack Ma, made no secret of his willingness to co-operate closely with Beijingâ€™s authorities and with any investigations into users.