Yahoo agreed yesterday to settle the lawsuit brought against it by a Chinese dissident, Shi Tao, for giving the Chinese government about him that led directly to his imprisonment and torture. The lawsuit has become a media nightmare for Yahoo, from congressional hearings to a corporate apology to congress to being berated by Congressman Lantos for conducting “inexcusably negligent behavior at best, and deliberately deceptive behavior at worst.”
Technological Empowerment by Yongnian Zheng, a new book from Stanford University Press, examines the ways in which the internet has both facilitated and repressed political dissidence in China. Zheng sees the internet as providing not a medium to bring about a rapid revolution, but a forum that is already encouraging gradual progress toward a more open society, as a facilitator both of communication and of international commerce. While these changes gradually develop, however, individuals like Shi Tao will continue to be jailed for sending emails, and the Chinese government will continue to ask American corporations to help it police its citizens.