Yahoo! Suddenly Discovers the Prime Directive

Captain Picard, his face in his hand in frustration.

In his blog Rough Type, Nicholas Carr points out the hypocrisy in Yahoo’s move to dismiss a lawsuit against them filed by jailed Chinese dissidents. The suit is being filed on the behalf of Yu Ling, wife of Wang Xiazoning, who was arrested on some rather suspciously-totalitarian-sounding charges such as “incitement to subvert state power”.

Nick’s argument is simple and goes like this:

Yahoo logo with swastika flag and Hitler
Believe it or not, this image is from a BBC story on the Yahoo! Nazi memorabilia auction case.
Click the picture to see the BBC story.

Remember back in 2000, when Nazi memorabilia was available for sale on a Yahoo! auction page? A French court ordered them to remove the item since the sale of such items is illegal in France. Yahoo’s top French executive, Philippe Guillanton, argued that:

“ is not doing anything unlawful. It is completely complying with the law of the country in which it operates and where its target audience is,” he said. “Yahoo auctions in the U.S. are ruled by the legal, moral and cultural principles of that country.”

Simply put, it was “screw you and your French laws, we’re operating in America!”

But now that a Chinese dissident has put the legal ball in their court, Yahoo!’s taking a more “enlightened” citizen-of-the-world view of things:

“This is a lawsuit by citizens of China imprisoned for using the internet in China to express political views in violation of China law. It is a political case challenging the laws and actions of the Chinese government. It has no place in the American courts.”

It’s as if they’ve suddenly discovered the Prime Directive.

Carr sums up the hypocrisy so nicely with this line: This time, Yahoo executives are making no mention of “the legal, moral and cultural principles” of the U.S.

Nicely done, Nick! I salute you with a filet mignon on a flaming sword.


“Spam King” Robert Soloway Arrested

Let’s Go to Prison

Before I get carried away with news about Google Gears, Jobs and Gates at D5 and Palm’s why-the-Hell-did-they-make-that device, I thought I’d open with this little bit of news that shouldn’t be forgotten amidst all the current news noise.

It looks as though Robert “Spam King” Soloway is one step closer to becoming a Pruno connoisseur.

From a Yahoo! News report:

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – US prosecutors said they captured on Wednesday a nefarious Internet marketer responsible so much junk e-mail they called him “Spam King.”

Robert Soloway, 27, was arrested in Seattle, Washington, a week after being indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of identity theft, money laundering, and mail, wire, and e-mail fraud.

Soloway is accused of using “botnets,” networks of computers, to disguise where e-mail originated and of forging return addresses of real people or businesses that wound up blamed for unwanted mailings.

If convicted as charged, Soloway will face a maximum sentence of more than 65 years in prison and a fine of 250,000 dollars.

Spamhaus has more details about Soloway’s career as a spammer:

Soloway has been a long term nuisance on the internet. He has been sending enormous amounts of spam for years, filling mailboxes and mail servers with unsolicited and unwanted junk email. In addition, he has fraudulently marketed his spam services to others as legitimate ‘opt-in’ services when they were anything but that, duping innocent users and then failing to provide promised customer support or refunds. Because Soloway spammed through hijacked computers and open proxies, he has repeatedly violated both the Computer Abuse and Fraud Act of 1984 and the CAN-SPAM law of 2003.

Soloway first appeared in the Spamhaus Block List (SBL) in 2001. In 2003, he was listed on Spamhaus’s Register of Known Spam Operations (ROKSO), a list of the world’s “worst of the worst” criminal spammers. Spamhaus spamtraps continued to receive spam solicitations from Soloway advertising his services through the weekend before today’s indictment.

Soloway’s violations of the U.S. CAN-SPAM law and various state anti-spam laws resulted in his being sued successfully by a number of plaintiffs, including Microsoft Corporation and Robert Braver, owner of an Oklahoma-based ISP. Both Microsoft and Braver received damage awards of millions of dollars. Soloway never paid these awards, claiming that he lived off of the proceeds of a family trust and was therefore “judgement-proof.” In September 2005 in Oklahoma City, after Soloway had fired his lawyers and then failed to appear to represent himself in court, U.S. District Judge Ralph G. Thompson issued a permanent injunction against Soloway, forbidding him to continue sending spam that violated the CAN-SPAM act. Soloway ignored this injunction as well and continued to spam.

For the incredibly curious (or if you’re one of those people who’s seen every episode of every variant of Law & Order), here’s a link to a PDF of Soloway’s Arrest Warrant.