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

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.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor

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?

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