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Please don't censor internet, sobs Yahoo!

Heartfelt plea fails to mention China

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Yahoo! has issued a statement ahead of tomorrow's US House of Representatives Committee on International Relations which expresses its deep concerns at "efforts of governments to restrict and control open access to information and communication".

The statement continues: "We also firmly believe the continued presence and engagement of companies like Yahoo! is a powerful force in promoting openness and reform. If we are required to restrict search results, we will strive to achieve maximum transparency to the user."

The statement, as the BBC notes, makes no reference to China. Tomorrow's hearing will likely raise the issue of Yahoo!'s involvement in the 2003 arrest of dissident Li Zhi who was subsequently jailed for eight years for "inciting subversion" based on data "supplied by Yahoo!'s Hong Kong subsidiary", as we previously reported.

Yahoo! has already taken flak for its involvement in the jailing last year of reporter Shi Tao for "divulging state secrets". Yahoo! spokeswoman Mary Osako told AFP that it was "rigorous" in its procedures and "only responded with what we were legally compelled to provide, and nothing more".

Yahoo! furthermore insists that it cannot be expected to take on the might of Beijing alone. Its statement adds: "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.

"We will work with industry, government, academia and NGOs [non-government organisations] 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." ®

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