When Yahoo revealed Shi Tao's identity were they right or wrong in assisting Chinese authorities and what moral issues does this controversy raise? What obligations should Yahoo have weighed in this situation?
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The answer to the first part of this question is, for the most part, a matter of personal opinion. There is no clear definition of what is right or wrong in this situation. Your answer depends largely on your point of view. My own view is that Yahoo was right from a business perspective but was probably wrong from a moral perspective.
In making their decision, Yahoo should have weighed their need to make money by doing business in China against their moral obligation to refrain from helping China violate Shi’s human rights. The main job of every company is to make money. Companies have an obligation to make as much money as they can for their shareholders. For a company like Yahoo, doing business in China is a potential way to make a lot of money. This implies that the company has a duty to try to do business there. On the other hand, firms have a moral (but not legal) obligation to avoid doing immoral things. In my view, as in the view of most Westerners, it is immoral for a government to deny its citizens the right to freedom of expression. When Yahoo helped the Chinese government deny Shi’s right to freedom of speech, it was committing an immoral act.
We then have to ask what is “right” or “wrong” for a business. On the one hand, you can say that it is right for a business to make money via any legal means. On the other, you can say that it is morally wrong for companies to help governments oppress their citizens. My own view is that Yahoo was right from a purely financial and legal point of view but that it was wrong from a moral standpoint.
Do you think it is the company then that acts immorally or is it only the people of Yahoo?
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