Yahoo vigorously denies charges that it turned over user names to Iran

Yahoo vigorously denies charges that it turned over user names to Iran

Summary: Resistance sources who have infiltrated Iranian regime say Yahoo agreed to provide government with identities of 200,000 users in exchange for lifting the block on Yahoo.com.

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Editor's note: ZDNet has retracted this blog post. Here’s what went wrong.

Oct. 9, 9:18 am PST -- Ed note from Larry Dignan: I'm ending this back and forth now. This story, which derived from a blog post in Iran, has turned into a he said-Yahoo said go-round. Yahoo has denied the charges that it has turned over names to Iran and called the allegations completely false. Short of second and third sourcing, ZDNet must consider this report unreliable.

Oct. 9, 8:08 am PST - Further details on the sources of this story: My source informs me that this information was obtained by the Iranian Student Solidarity Organization, a group of 30,000 (according to their figures) who are opposed to the current Iranian government and post details of their activities in email and a blog.) The group's former leader was arrested by the regime but has escaped and is now living in the United States. I am currently seeking to make contact and receive confirmation of the story from this individual.

Where did this information come from? According to the source, "This group has infiltrated various IRI organizations and have contacts in the right places who inform them of activities such as Internet filtering. One of their contacts actually attended the meeting where the Yahoo official from Malaysia and IRI staff took place. - R.K.

Oct. 9, 6:30 am PST -- Yahoo's response to the following report: "The allegations in the story are false. Neither Yahoo! nor any Yahoo! representative has met with or communicated with any Iranian officials, and Yahoo! has not disclosed user data to the Iranian government. Yahoo! was founded on the principle that access to information and communications tools can improve people’s lives, and Yahoo! is committed to protecting and promoting freedom of expression and privacy. To learn more about our human rights efforts, please visit: http://humanrights.yahoo.com.”

This post is going to make some major allegations. I realize this is not completely buttoned down, but I believe there is sufficient veracity in what I have right now to publish. I am expecting to be able to provide further proof as the story unfolds.

Yahoo collaborated with the Iranian regime during the election protests, providing to the authorities the names and emails of some 200,000 Iranian Yahoo users, according to a post on the Iranian Students Solidarity (Farsi) blog. My sources indicate the information comes from a group of resisters who have infiltrated the administration and are leaking out important information.

These sources say that Yahoo representatives met with Iranian Internet authorities after Google and Yahoo were shut down during the protests and agreed to provide the names of Yahoo subscribers who also have blogs in exchange for the government lifting the blocks on Yahoo.

Here's the translation I received of the Iranian post:

On 27th of Shahrivar (Day of Qods) when Iranians demonstrated again on the streets, the Iranian authorities in addition to blocking many internet sites, all over Iran, blocked or severely limited access to Yahoo and Google. Google did not react and its problem was resolved with 48 hours, but Yahoo sent a representative to Iran’s telecommunications ministry, to resolve the issue.

During the meeting with Iranian Internet authorities and telecommunications authorities, Yahoo representatives were asked to provide Iranian authorities with the names (data) on all Iranian Internet account holders in exchange for removing the block/filter on the Yahoo website.

The Yahoo representative subsequently expressed that currently there were more than 20 million email accounts and providing such a list will be a very time-consuming process. To which the IRGC (Islamic Republic Guardian Council) replied by asking the representative to provide email accounts of those individuals who have Yahoo accounts and are publishing blogs.

Apparently this made Yahoo’s task a bit easier and the Yahoo representative agreed to provide such a list within a matter of hours. Upon the receipt of such a list, which included approximately 200,000 emails, by the Iranian authorities, the regime immediately unblocked access to the Yahoo.com website. The list went back as far as five years and included active and inactive accounts and blogs.

It is necessary to mention here that the Iranian Yahoo is managed by Yahoo Corporation in Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur).

If true, this is a deeply troubling development and exposes Yahoo as determined to cooperate with repressive governments, regardless of who they might be. China, Iran, who else?

Topics: Social Enterprise, Browser, Collaboration, Government, Government US, Networking, Telcos

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24 comments
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  • disgraceful

    this is certainly one of the more irresponsible actions on behalf of a corporation in modern times. Why is it that these media centric .com's .. (grouping in Google noting some of their more recent activity) seem to lack the controls, privacy and humanitarian fibre that their more traditional bricks and mortar counterparts seem to posess? The fact this was done to pursue a purely commercial "end" makes it even more reprehensible. The Yahoo! brand is seriously in tatters .. great work for reporting on this.
    kRanki1
    • Right. And there is absolutelly no chance

      that the post came from a Google employee, or some other competitor of Yahoo?

      Because someone behind a screen name posts a story that could damage Yahoo, that it must be believable?

      If that turns out to be the case, would you think it still an irresponsible action on their part, or just the cost of having competitors?
      GuidingLight
    • oh, it's terrible...

      A communications company turning over user records to a secretive government in exchange of commercial compensation? Outrageous! Scurrilous! Traitorous! Villainous! Unconscionable! Status Quo!

      Of course I would like ot see the story validated by other sources too.
      bernalillo
  • If this is true...

    it is unbelievable. If it is not you should be banned from blogging. I hope you have your facts straight.
    bjbrock
  • RE: Exclusive! Yahoo provided Iran with names of 200,000 users

    LOL, way to go there Yahoo. Wait till Google finds out? LOL

    RT
    www.true-privacy.net.tc
    ccbeeno
  • Shame!

    It's a real shame for Yahoo to put those people's lifes under risk! In case this is true, Yahoo should be banned from using .com! Only Iranian domain should be left available:)))
    Trueteller
  • RE: Exclusive! Yahoo provided Iran with names of 200,000 users

    Publishing this without a comment from Yahoo is
    outrageous. I would like to know why ZDNet would so
    discredit a major US corporation based on a student rumor.
    zato_3@...
    • because it's probably...

      true. Especially with Yahoo's track record. And I expect Yahoo employees in Iran were probably pressured or worse.

      That being said, I hope this is not just bad journalism. ZDNet has gone downhill since there earlier days. But then posting from other that are not true journalists will result in not true journalism.
      bjbrock
      • True journalism?

        <i>....posting from other that are not true journalists will result in not true journalism.</i>

        What cave have you been hibernating in since, oh..., just about forever.

        Journalism today and since a few generations, is not been about "true" journalism. Today's journalists are no different from the bloggers who will create their own version of the stories, or will create their own "facts". When journalists don't just report the facts in a story, and include within a report or column their own "views" or "prejudices", then it's not "true" journalism.

        The "true" journalism that you speak of hasn't existed for a long time. Yeah, there might be some who do just report on the story and on the facts, but those are the exceptions to the rule today where most journalists don't even try anymore to be "fair" and "balanced" and truthful.

        Journalism today is about "making a difference" and with that goal, journalists are trained to go out and "change the world" and "pick sides' rather than just reporting on the facts.
        adornoe
  • RE: Did Yahoo provide Iran with names of 200,000 users?

    Very, very, very hard to fathom why Yahoo! would do this for such a relatively tiny amount of traffic and the trouble they got in with the China debacle a few years back (let alone the Iranian gov't being dicks, of course). Then again, it's so illogical, you must have some compelling evidence to have the peach pits to publish it. Enjoy the phalanx of Y! lawyers marching your way.
    d
    davercarp
  • Boycott Yahoo

    If this is true then this is also despicable!
    If this is true then we should all boycott Yahoo!
    Will Munny
  • Disgraceful

    This from Yahoo on Twitter
    The ZDnet allegations are false. No Yahoo! representative met w/ any Iranian officials or disclosed user data to Iranian gov't.

    Unless you can now prove Yahoo are out-and-out liars then you should hang your head in shame. Iran is awash with disinformation from all sides (I know, I blog on it) and you have just added to that pile of garbage. Trouble is you could well have done damage to what I consider to be a very good service. SHAME!
    Reged
  • RE: Did Yahoo provide Iran with names of 200,000 users?

    Why would yahoo do this and compromise their long standing popularity and their good name? Did Yahoo not have some kind of terms and conditions set in place? Can someone pls get to the bottom of this? It is some serious allegation and I pray that it is not true!
    miow45
  • RE: Did Yahoo provide Iran with names of 200,000 users?

    Why would this story be published while you are working to
    get more "proof" and waiting for a response from Yahoo? If
    the story is true, it is disgraceful. But either way, a
    responsible journalist doesn't look for "proof" of a flimsy
    allegation; a responsible journalist seeks the truth whether it
    confirms or denies the supposition.
    Mark1965
  • It is not a surprise.

    There has also been something very strange happening on the social networks regarding the Iranian elections.
    There is a sizeable movement swaying opinion. And they are operating in places like twitter and facebook.

    Keep your eyes peeled for the propaganda machine at work on the net. Not hard to spot.

    I think that this is merely the tip of the iceberg.

    Yahoo and Google etc, they're new money, but they are now huge corporations. Like the oil companies they will go to lengths to protect their interests.

    Are you really surprised?

    There are no ethics in business. Fundamentally corruption is at the heart of this. Whatever 'collateral damage' is reported there is always more you will never hear of.

    Absolutely, if this is true then it is a disgrace. Heads should roll and lessons taught. But the people at the top won't get punished. Scapegoats will be found and these type of activities will not end.

    That said, more conformation is needed on this story before we start sharpening the guillotine.

    terocon101
  • Boycott Yahoo - World Privacy Rights

    Yahoo needs to understand that privacy means privacy all over the world. They sent these people to their deaths. The people who made this policy should be fired!
    azoldak
  • If true, Yahoo! would not admit it.

    We have no clear information, if Yahoo! did provide Iran with the names or not. But, we would never know for sure! Or do you think they would say: "Yes, we were happy to help the Iranian regime to arrest and possibly murder people whose only crime it was to practice freedom of speech -- so we could carry on with business as usual."

    Oh well, of course they would not tell!

    Also, those Siemens/Nokia allegations. You will only know what they sold to Iran. It is very unlikely Iranian officials will tell you how they used the equipment during post-election protests.
    *asi*
    • If not true Yahoo would not admit it either

      A journalistic imperative I have never understood is asking (lazy) questions where the answer would be self-incriminating and then making hay from the answer.

      I'd rather see some corroborating evidence or at least another source or two.

      I wouldn't mind hanging yahoo but I want to keep it nice and justified.
      bernalillo
  • RE: Did Yahoo provide Iran with names of 200,000 users?

    If so, SHAME ON THEM!
    M Wagner
  • True

    A friend of mine can not trust Yahoo what so ever.
    Her ex husband of Yemen has full access of her
    Yahoo email accounts. Passwords changed, info
    changed, but he is able to show full printouts of
    her emails. Yahoo? No trust.
    charlesaa1977