Updated: Yahoo has settled with two Chinese journalists that were jailed after the company turned over their online information.
According to the Associated Press, Yahoo settled a lawsuit with two journalists and a family member. They sued Yahoo after its Yahoo HK subsidiary gave Chinese authorities emails with pro democracy literature. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
The World Organization of Human Rights USA, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Chinese journalist, said in a statement:
While the details of the settlement agreement are private, the issues raised in the lawsuit and during last week's Congressional hearings indicate some of the key points that were the focus of settlement discussions. Some of these issues include Yahoo's efforts to secure the release of Shi Tao and Wang Xiaoning from prison, considerations regarding future law enforcement requests for identifying internet user information, and efforts to meet the humanitarian needs of those who have been unlawfully detained as a result of Yahoo's actions.
On Nov. 6, Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang and Yahoo general counsel Michael Callahan were grilled by Congress. Yang (testimony) and Callahan (testimony) apologized in their testimony and maintained that Yahoo did nothing wrong.
Yahoo was badly bruised after its Capitol Hill appearance and the settlement puts the issue to rest for now. It remains to be seen what happens when the Chinese government comes knocking for user information in the future.
Update: Amnesty International has commented on the Yahoo settlement. In a statement, Amy O'Meara, director of business and human rights at Amnesty International USA, said:
"Compensation may help bring a small measure of justice to the families of Shi Tao and Wang Xiaoning, but it does not fix the underlying problem. Shi Tao was sentenced to 10 years in jail because Chinese authorities used e-mail account information supplied by Yahoo! to convict him. Band-Aid fixes are not going to stop a case like this from happening again.
"Yahoo's commitments to protect privacy and free speech are suspect given the pledge it signed this summer that further impinges on Chinese users' ability to express political dissent online. Yahoo! must urgently enact policies that will prevent others like Shi Tao or Wang Xioaning from being jailed for political or other writings posted on the Internet.
"Internet companies doing business in China must carefully consider the human rights implications of their actions. It would be unfortunate if companies saw individual settlements like these as the easy way to sweep underlying problems under the rug."