Cruelty Free Bookmarks?

May 2nd, 2007  |  Published in etc  |  11 Comments

Sometimes something suddenly catches up to you, maybe even years after you first knew about it, and it hits you just so. I’ve known about Yahoo’s nasty habit of handing information over that helps convict Chinese dissidents for a just over a year, and I’ve never been comfortable with it.

At the same time, I guess I was rationalizing the whole thing by noting that other companies over there, Google and Microsoft for instance, haven’t exactly distinguished themselves as exemplars of courage. The difference, however, is that Google and Microsoft don’t offer services that would involve being put in the position of giving up a user’s information.

So my answer to anyone who asks ‘where do you draw the line?’ when it comes to cuddly Internet companies crawling into bed with despots is:

“As for Yahoo’s responsibility, the World Organization for Human Rights says that the company ‘knowingly and willfully aided and abetted in the commission of torture and other major abuses violating international law‘ by turning over the messages.”

Ars Technica, 4/19/07

Yahoo’s leadership says it’s doing more good by being in China than not. Here’s their conscience speaking:

“The arrests ‘are never things you go home and feel good about,’ Yang said. “We feel horrible about that…We have no way of preventing that beforehand….If you want to do business there you have to comply.’

“We feel horrible about that.”

“You have to comply.”

So, as I said, late to thinking about this much in the concrete, but it hit me this evening that I don’t like what Yahoo does and I don’t feel compelled to take a “realistic” view on Yahoo’s behalf. I don’t care what its market realities are. Not my concern.

I don’t care to give Yahoo my money in the form of my annual flickr subscription. I don’t care to give Yahoo my time with the occasional ad impressions Yahoo News or other properties may gather from me. I don’t care to invest in other Yahoo services, even if that’s something as trivial as adding a bookmark to So I downloaded any information I contributed to Yahoo sites and axed all my accounts this evening.

That was a very small thing to do. Sometimes something just hits you:

We live in a complex world, and it’s hard to always know what the right thing is, but Yahoo abets despots who seek to torture their citizens, and it does so because the money’s too good to ignore.


  1. brian says:

    May 3rd, 2007 at 6:13 am (#)

    so what bookmark service are you going to use? google?

  2. mph says:

    May 3rd, 2007 at 8:44 am (#)

    so what bookmark service are you going to use? google?

    I don’t know. I looked at Google and it doesn’t quite fill the bill. I was thinking either or furl.

    ma.gnolia seems more low-key, and with its mirror’d API it seems like I’d have a better chance of getting Luis to tweak WebNoteHappy to provide that as an option. Writing him about that is on my list today.

    Meanwhile, cocoalicious offers a way to change the API you point it at, and I just downloaded pukka, which also allows talking to an alternate API.

    Any thoughts on any of that?

  3. dot unplanned » del.ete.ed says:

    May 3rd, 2007 at 8:46 am (#)

    […] Eh. Nevermind. I prefer my bookmarking services cruelty free. […]

  4. Ed Heil says:

    May 3rd, 2007 at 10:58 am (#)

    Let’s write our own bookmark service!

  5. brian says:

    May 3rd, 2007 at 1:32 pm (#)

    i think ma.gnolia looks pretty sweet. i’m just so addicted to the minimalism. and i’m dreading any migration path i guess. furl just isn’t striking me in any way at the moment. i’m sure luis would add ma.gnolia support to wnh, if at least 2 registered users asked. =)

  6. brian says:

    May 3rd, 2007 at 1:40 pm (#)

    i also like the firefox plugin. i’m not motivated to figure one out on my own. =)

  7. mph says:

    May 3rd, 2007 at 1:53 pm (#)

    I did write Luis this morning. He’s already aware of the ma.gnolia API. I’m not gonna jostle his elbow, but I was happy with the response I got.

    But boy … you do realize how thoroughly has killed its category once you start looking for bookmarking tools.

  8. brian says:

    May 3rd, 2007 at 2:53 pm (#)

    true dat. i tried the ma.gnolia import of my bookmarks. there’s some icons, i don’t know what they do. it’s like looking at some classified site, and then comparing it to craigslist.

    i’m still not sure what the answer is in all this, but i definitely respect you taking a stand on this issue. it’s kind of how i feel about driving my car. so easy and alluring, but ultimately not supporting what i want to support. life is shades of gray…

  9. brian says:

    May 3rd, 2007 at 2:55 pm (#)

    i’m brianpink on ma.gnolia as well

  10. dot unplanned » Happy 4th says:

    July 5th, 2007 at 1:09 am (#)

    […] went with flickr. Looking around, they seemed like the best place to go in the wake of my de-yahooification. And they have a pleasant way about them, with some useful help pages that address digital issues […]

  11. dot unplanned » Yahoo! Says Giving Dissidents Up to Torturers is Its First Amendment Right says:

    August 28th, 2007 at 12:39 pm (#)

    […] Cruelty Free Bookmarks? […]

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