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Jerry Yang on the Hot Seat

In congressional hearings, the Yahoo! co-founder and CEO addresses questions about the company's role in human-rights violations in China

For two years, journalist Shi Tao has been confined in a Chinese prison for the contents of an e-mail. On Nov. 6, Yahoo! CEO and co-founder Jerry Yang answered to Congress for his company's role in landing Tao behind bars. The House Committee on Foreign Affairs called on Yang on Nov. 6 to explain what reasons the Chinese government gave when it requested information from Tao's Yahoo (YHOO) e-mail account. Yahoo ultimately turned over e-mail messages that discussed the government's policy on reporting about the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Tao was convicted in 2005 of disclosing state secrets and is serving a 10-year sentence.

Yang faced harsh criticism for Yahoo's actions. Members of the House Committee had already accused Yahoo General Counsel Michael Callahan of providing false information during a February, 2006, hearing about U.S. companies complying with government controls on Internet use in China. "It's one thing not to know something, it's another thing altogether to choose not to know. I'd like to find out, at this hearing, whether the whole corporate culture of Yahoo was shaped by a fundamental decision not to look too closely into what their employees in China were doing," said Representative Christopher Smith (R-N.J.), who sits on the House Committee.