High School Student Launches BoycottYahoo.com Website To Protest Collaboration with China in Jailing of Dissident Journalists

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Amanda Fink, a 17-year-old Pasadena, CA, a high school senior, and the opinion editor of her school newspaper, has created and launched the http://www.BoycottYahoo.com website to protest the internet giant's "heinous and unconscionable act" of turning over to the Chinese government the identity of one of its account holders, a dissident journalist who used his Yahoo account in writing about the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square uprising. The next day, the journalist was arrested by Chinese police and sentenced to ten years in prison. In her opinion piece, "A Call to Boycott Yahoo," she referred to the company as "moral pygmies."

the only thing that matters to them

"Moral pygmies."

That's the opening volley of a blistering opinion piece written by a high school newspaper editor that calls for a comprehensive boycott of Yahoo, the internet behemoth, to protest the company's "heinous and unconscionable act" of turning over to the Chinese government the identity of one of its account holders. The next day, journalist Shi Tao was arrested by Chinese police and sentenced to ten years in prison.

His crime? Disseminating news about the anniversary of Tiananmen Square uprising and ultimate massacre. "Freedom of the press is literally a foreign concept to the repressive, media-controlled Chinese government," said the article.

Shi Tao's mistake? Using his Yahoo e-mail account, mistakenly believing his anonymity would be protected. The incident happened in 2004, but Yahoo misled Congress about it, and its own complicity in the incident, according to recent Congressional testimony, as cited in the opinion piece.

The article's author, Amanda Fink, 17, a senior at Polytechnic School in Pasadena, CA, and the Opinion Editor of the school newspaper, The Paw Print, lambasted Yahoo and its CEO, Jerry Yang, for putting corporate greed above human rights. On her own, Fink has started the http://www.BoycottYahoo.com website to try to persuade the company to use its considerable financial muscle to help free the jailed dissidents. There are more than one.

"The Chinese government demanded that Yahoo cough up the e-mail sender's identity," Fink wrote in her hard-hitting broadside. "Did Yahoo protest? Did the company try to explain the notion of free speech to the Chinese? Did it explain that anonymity, if desired, is a principal hallmark of the internet? Did it offer any resistance at all? No. Yahoo rolled over and gave the Chinese exactly what they asked for."

The opinion piece, "A Call to Boycott Yahoo!", echoed the skewering delivered by Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Burlingame), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, when Yang was summoned to testify about his company's tacit complicity in collaborating with the Chinese government to stifle pro-democracy voices. Lantos told Yang, "While technologically and financially you are giants, morally you are pygmies."

Why did Yahoo do it?

"Almost certainly it was because Yahoo has extensive business interests in China," Fink wrote, "and Yang and his cohorts did not want to anger the Chinese government, which might interfere with these business interests, or worse, boot the company out of the country."

To protest Yahoo's actions, Fink has created and launched the website http://www.BoycottYahoo.com , which lays out the reasons for the boycott and details what people can do, starting with the cancellation of their Yahoo mail accounts. To facilitate that, the website has links to competitors' gmail (Google) and hotmail (Microsoft) to set up new accounts. Visitors to the website are also urged to send a letter of protest directly to Yang, as well as protest letters to the Chinese embassy and consulates around the country, whose addresses are provided on the website.

The website, aimed primarily at high school and college students -- perhaps Yahoo's most important demographic -- asks students to post Boycott Yahoo messages on their Facebook pages. "Yahoo is the company it is today because we believed in it and helped make it a success. Let's spread the word from campus to campus and around the world," Fink wrote. The website also urges people to stop visiting the Yahoo website, explaining the more visitors to Yahoo website pages the more the company can charge its advertisers. Money is "the only thing that matters to them," she wrote.

Drawing a parallel to those who collaborated during World War II while other stood by in silence, Fink wrote, we are taught in school "that we learn history so as not to make the mistakes of the past ... The era of the collaborator must not be allowed to continue."

According to Fink, there have been others arrested beside Shi Tao, including Journalist Wang Xiaoning, also a Yahoo account holder, who was arrested in 2004 for a similar deed and similarly sentenced to ten years in prison.

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Steven Fink

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