… is the headline on this morning’s Observer column. It’s a sub-editor’s nod to the Grateful Dead, who once recorded the song I fought the law, and the law won.
After a small bout of legal wrangling, Yahoo removed the auctions – once its executives remembered they possessed substantial assets physically located in France.
Spool forward two years, and we find the same company – once a flag carrier for internet freedom – metamorphosing into an obsequious accessory to Chinese political repression. In 2002, Yahoo signed a document entitled ‘Public Pledge on Self-Discipline for the Chinese Internet Industry’ in which it promised to ‘inspect and monitor the information of domestic and foreign websites’ and ‘refuse access to those websites that disseminate harmful information to protect the internet users of China from the adverse influences of the information’. Since then Microsoft, Cisco and Google have trodden the same grisly path.
Yahoo’s breakneck transformation from libertarian bratpacker to authorised agent of thought control is the salutary tale with which Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu open their book, Who Controls the Internet? (just out from Oxford University Press). Both authors are academic lawyers, and Goldsmith has for years been challenging the myth of internet ungovernability. Now he and his co-author have laid out a persuasive case for this scepticism…