Search giant Yahoo was raked over the coals by a Congressional committee panel yesterday for its actions regarding jailed Chinese dissident Shi Tao. Yahoohad provided details to Chinese authorities that helped them identify the man, who was sentenced to 10 years in jail for forwarding an e-mail from the Chinese Communist Party to journalists, warningthem not to cover the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 2004, to web sites outside the country. In 2006, Michael Callahan, Yahoo’s general counsel and vice-president,told a Congressional panel that he didn’t know why authorities wanted to trace Shi Tao. It emerged later that several Yahoo employees had documents stating that the Chinese wanted informationon the man for "suspected illegal provision of state secrets". Only last week Callahan apologized to Congress, claiming he only became aware of the documents months after giving histestimony. Yesterday Callahan and Yahoo chief executive Jerry Yang had to undergo a tongue-lashing from House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Lantos, who wondered whether Callahan hasgiven false testimony last year. "Yahoo claims that this is just one big misunderstanding," he was quoted as saying by the BBC. "Let me be clear – this was no misunderstanding.This was inexcusably negligent behavior at best, and deliberately deceptive behavior at worst." Callahan’s response was that there had been confusion at Yahoo over the Chinesedemands, and apologized again for not informing the committee as soon as the information came to his attention. Shi Tao’s mother attended the hearing, and Lantos suggested the Yahoorepresentatives “beg forgiveness” from her. The hearing comes a month after the committee backed legislation that would make it illegal for companies to co-operate with authoritiesin China and other countries.
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