The Internet doesn't respect national boundaries, but businesses like Yahoo need to respect national laws and requirements. With all of the search companies' problems around China, the need for international coordination on cyberlaws has reached a critical point, a Yahoo executive told ZDNet UK.
"Effective policy defines what is legal and what is illegal. If legislation is concerned with how an action is illegal, it creates rigidity, and means the legislation won't keep up with the technology," Robin Pembrooke, the director of product operations for Yahoo Europe, told ZDNet UK.
The lack of global legislation adds to the complexity of the situation, Pembroke added. "It's not realistic to have global legislation, but we do need international consistency," he said. "One example is 'child abuse' content, which has a different definition in the U.S. than in the U.K."
Yahoo feels "horrible" about the arrests in China that the company contributed to, Pembroke said, but repeated the line that it's best to engage the Chinese. "By cooperating with the authorities, we can improve people's lives. By giving them access to the Internet, this raises awareness in differences in government approaches, and increase forces for change," he said.
"Our challenge is we have to work inside the laws of the countries we operate in," Pembrooke said.