Yahoo Case Essay, Research Paper
The case of three anti-racism associations versus Yahoo! Inc. and its French subsidiary Yahoo! France (about the sell of Nazis objects on a website hosted by Yahoo) raises the question of the consequences of globalisation of information on freedom of expression. It thus transcends current debate on the responsibility of Internet technical service providers for the content of the sites they host. Is it acceptable for each State to subject its own Net users to the limits set by its laws be they liberticidal or, on the contrary, should this be seen as an opportunity afforded by the open and universal nature of the Web to prevent States from impeding the free flow of information? Is it at all desirable to allow access providers the means to monitor the content of the sites they host, to decide what is consultable or not, and to collect information on their customers in order to identify them, even in the name of a professional ethic.
The issue here is not one of rather naively defending big groups that, like a general-interest portal such as Yahoo!, might take advantage of Net users’ attachment to freedom of expression in order to conquer new market shares. We needed only to see how zealously Jerry Yang’s company adjusted to the straitjacket imposed on it by the Chinese authorities, for example, to dampen any illusions as to their real attachment to the fight against censorship. But it would be a great pity if, in the name of a just cause the fight against sites which, to use the expression of the judge dealing with the Yahoo! case, are “an insult to the collective memory of the country” we provided arguments, weapons and a justification for repressive regimes that, from China to Tunisia or Burma, want above all to bar their people from access to any unauthorised information.
Globalisation of information, the fruit of new communication technologies, forces us to question the validity of certain prohibitions that French legislation, in particular, with the Gayssot law, has built around the expression of anything that could be suspected of being an incentive to racial hatred.
Rather than using banning and prosecution to fight against propagandists of “theories”, “ideas” and “opinions” which are both an insult to victims of genocide and stupid from an historical point of view, it would be better to opt for a more educative approach, to gamble on the intelligence of Net users like that of any reader and, above all, on their ability to differentiate a credible site from a collection of lies and nonsense. All morally reprehensible remarks should not necessarily be judicially reprehensible.