Did Yahoo! turn over user data from 200,000 Yahoo! Iran email accounts to Iranian authorities in exchange for the unblocking of Yahoo.com? Not likely.
Last week, Richard Koman over at ZDNet reported this exact allegation
; ZDNet quickly retracted the post
in full within the day, given the unreliability of the source and the alarming disregard of basic journalistic best practices. A quick inquiry with Yahoo! (or even a simple search of Yahoo!'s website) would have revealed critical factual errors in the underlying report, which should have raised red flags as to its reliability. (To start, Yahoo! has no Iranian website or base of operations in Malaysia
.) And these steps should have been taken before such a serious accusation was lobbed into the public sphere, to be reposted and prejudged.
Commentary on the state of online journalism aside
, such wildly false accusations distract from the many real challenges to Internet freedom emerging all over the world: censorship and intimidation are on the rise and Internet freedom advocates are fighting off filtering mandates left and right. Questions of ethical corporate behavior in the ICT space can be thorny and complex. Exhortations directed at tech companies to "do the right thing" are only as effective as our collective understanding of the human rights challenges they actually face.
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