Yahoo Brand Tarnished By Informant Role In China

According to The Wall Street Journal, American firms seeking large piles of cash in China are faced with more than day-to-day business challenges. They’re faced with tough moral choices.

An unusually dramatic congressional hearing on Yahoo Inc.’s role in the imprisonment of at least two dissidents in China exposed the company to withering criticism and underscored the risks for Western companies seeking to expand there.
“While technologically and financially you are giants, morally you are pygmies,” Rep. Tom Lantos (D., Calif.), who called the hearing on Capitol Hill, told Yahoo’s co-founder and Chief Executive Jerry Yang and General Counsel Michael Callahan.
Mr. Yang apologized to the mother of journalist Shi Tao, who was jailed after Yahoo China, then a unit of the company, handed information about him to Chinese authorities in 2004. She was at the hearing, sitting directly behind Messrs. Callahan and Yang. Addressing the families of the dissidents, Mr. Yang said: “I want to say we are committed to doing what we can to secure their freedom. And I want to personally apologize for what they are going through.”

Great. Buy them out of jail then.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Yahoo! stock does appear to be taking a beating on this news. But I think it raises an interesting dilemma.
    As an American company operating in China, do you take your moral cues from the host country or your own? America has very strong protections on an individual’s privacy. It’s in our constitution.
    In China’s constitution, Article 40 in fact, it states: “to meet the needs of state security or of investigation into criminal offences, public security or procuratorial organs are permitted to censor correspondence in accordance with procedures prescribed by law.”I assume that also means have access to correspondence.
    Is it a company’s duty to promote the American values abroad just to do business there, make money, and bring it home?
    I’m not defending Yahoo!. But I do think the issue is slightly more complicated than, as the dissident’s mom put it, “Yahoo! almost killed my son.”