Search engines are navigating rough political waters, both at home and abroad. They’re filtering search results in China and other countries that mandate censorship. They’re cooperating with local authorities in a manner that limits freedom and self-expression, such as the growing controversy over Yahoo! helping Chinese authorities in jail a dissident. Closer to home, there was the U.S. government demand the major search engines hand over massive quantities of search data.
Small wonder Yahoo! today released a document entitled “Yahoo!: Our Beliefs as a Global Internet Company” in which it outlines a corporate philosophy toward operating in a global environment in which, “We are deeply concerned by efforts of governments to restrict and control open access to information and communication.”
What disturbs me about Yahoo’s statement, in which it dutifully states its adherence to ideals such as trust, openess and operating within the boundaries of local laws, is the fact the statement applies only to foreign territories. “Doing business in certain countries presents U.S. companies with challenging and complex questions…private industry alone cannot effectively influence foreign government policies.”
Well and good, Yahoo! But you, along with all the major search engines with the notable exception of Google, handed search data over to the US Department of Jusice. Is it just me, or does that single action at home make Yahoo’s global idealism ring a bit hollow?
(Yahoo statement reprinted after the jump.)
Yahoo!: Our Beliefs as a Global Internet Company
As a leading provider of Internet-based services, Yahoo! is committed to open access to information and communication on a global basis. We believe information is power. Citizens across the globe are benefiting greatly from increased access to communications, commerce and independent sources of information. The Internet has helped transform the way business is done, advanced consumer cultures, increased competition, allowed entrepreneurship to flourish, and provided citizens with more freedom in how they live, work, exchange ideas and make choices.
Doing business in certain countries presents U.S. companies with challenging and complex questions. We are deeply concerned by efforts of governments to restrict and control open access to information and communication. We also firmly believe the continued presence and engagement of companies like Yahoo! is a powerful force in promoting openness and reform.
Private industry alone cannot effectively influence foreign government policies on issues like the free exchange of ideas, maximum access to information, and human rights reform, and we believe continued government-to-government dialogue is vital to achieve progress on these complex political issues.
What Guides Us
Since our founding in 1995, Yahoo! has been guided by beliefs closely held by our founders and sustained by our employees:
? We believe the Internet can positively transform lives, societies and economies. It expands the ability for citizens around the world to communicate, express themselves, access information, and conduct commerce. It also enhances education, lowers geographic barriers, narrows social gaps and advances economic opportunity.
? We believe the Internet is built on openness, from information access to creative expression. We are committed to providing individuals with easy access to information and opportunities to openly communicate and exchange views and opinions.
? We are committed to maintaining our customers? trust. Hundreds of millions of consumers around the world have put their trust in Yahoo! for more than a decade. We take our users? privacy very seriously and never forget users come to us by choice.
? We believe in engagement on a global basis. The Internet?s reach is truly global, and at Yahoo! we offer localized content in more than twenty countries in a dozen languages. We recognize each country enacts its own laws in accordance with its own local norms and mores, and we must comply with applicable laws. We also believe our presence significantly benefits a country?s citizens through access to services and information.
? We seek the innovations and ideas that can change the world. We bear a sense of responsibility to make an impact on society and to empower consumers in ways never before possible.
As part of our ongoing commitment to preserving the open availability of the Internet around the world, we are undertaking the following:
? Collective Action: We will work with industry, government, academia and NGO’s to explore policies to guide industry practices in countries where content is treated more restrictively than in the United States and to promote the principles of freedom of speech and expression.
? Compliance Practices: We will continue to employ rigorous procedural protections under applicable laws in response to government requests for information, maintaining our commitment to user privacy and compliance with the law.
? Information Restrictions: Where a government requests we restrict search results, we will do so if required by applicable law and only in a way that impacts the results as narrowly as possible. If we are required to restrict search results, we will strive to achieve maximum transparency to the user.
? Government Engagement: We will actively engage in ongoing policy dialogue with governments with respect to the nature of the Internet and the free flow of information.