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Yahoo Inc. has been sued by a group of Chinese political activists who claim that the company aided the Chinese government in tracking the online activities of political dissidents. This marks the second such lawsuit against Yahoo in recent years.
Yahoo was sued last year by two Chinese journalists who claimed that Yahoo provided the Chinese government with information that ultimately led to their capture, imprisonment, and subsequent torture. This case was settled in November 2007. However, Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang was summoned before the U.S. Foreign Affairs Committee, where he was reprimanded for Yahoo’s role in the journalists’ imprisonment.
The new lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by a group of plaintiffs that include Li Zhi, Guo Quan, Zheng Cunzhu, and a group known as Chinese Democracy Party West American Foundation. In their filing, they claim that Yahoo “willing provided Chinese officials with access to private e-mail records… and other identifying information about the Plaintiffs.” Furthermore, they claim that this information was used as “the basis for the acts of persecution and torture that occurred and are occurring.” They are seeking unspecified punitive damages, as well as “assistance in obtaining the plaintiffs’ release from prison.”
The suit also claims to have “identified at least 60 individuals arbitrarily imprisoned in China for expressing their support for free elections” whose arrests may have been connected to unspecified actions taken by Yahoo.