Yahoo gave the Chinese government information it needed to send a local journalist to jail for a decade.
Following criticism from journalists worldwide, Yahoo has defended its actions by saying it was only following Chinese law.
The journalist had leaked an internal Chinese government warning to its commissars, urging them to be vigilant ahead of the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre and to watch out for dissident activity.
Yahoo’s response came a day after press advocacy group Reporters Without Borders alleged that the evidence, email from journalist Shi Tao's private Yahoo account, was used as material evidence in a trial in which he was convicted of divulging state secrets to foreigners. He was sent to jail for ten years.
"Just like any other global company, Yahoo must ensure that its local country sites must operate within the laws, regulations and customs of the country in which they are based," Mary Osako, a Yahoo spokeswoman, said via email.
Reporters Without Borders complained that Yahoo should have taken a different approach: "Does the fact that (Yahoo) operates under Chinese law free it from all ethical considerations?" the group said in a statement.
Shi Tao, an editorial department head at the Contemporary Business News in China's Hunan Province, pled guilty to the charges, according to materials related to the case provided by Reporters Without Borders. He apparently hoped that doing so would reduce the penalty.
The journalist sent the information via email to a New York-based Web site advocating democracy in China and it was published under the alias 198964, the date Beijing crushed the student-led democracy movement, June 4, 1989.