Standing Up to Cyberhate

By Megan Cristina, Senior Director, Ad Policy / Trust & Safety

The Internet provides an incredibly powerful platform for individuals around the world to connect, share their voice, create and learn. Unfortunately, some individuals take advantage of the free and open nature of the Internet to transmit hate, prejudice and bigotry. Too often, we see their unwelcome vitriol on social media, in comment sections, on websites, on blogs, in chat rooms, and even in social games.

Yahoo is committed to confronting online hate, educating our users about the dangers and realities, and encouraging our users to flag any hostile language they may see on our platform. Within our Community Guidelines, we define our community as a group of people with diverse beliefs, opinions, and backgrounds, and ask that contributors remain respectful and keep hateful and incendiary comments off of Yahoo.

As a member of Anti-Defamation League (ADL)’s Working Group on Cyberhate, we’ve had the opportunity to work with partners across the tech industry, civil society, academia and the legal community to brainstorm and collaborate around the best ways to combat hate and bigotry online. Today, the ADL released their recommendations for responding to cyberhate. We support these efforts and share a commitment to addressing this important issue.

Check out ADL’s Best Practices for Responding to Cyberhate, and visit our Safety Center to learn more.

Yahoo hosts Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Sunnyvale

By Tekedra Mawakana, VP & Deputy General Counsel, Global Public Policy

Yesterday afternoon, we were pleased to welcome Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy to our Sunnyvale headquarters. Prime Minister Renzi is the youngest ever Italian Prime Minister, sworn into office at the age of 39 in February 2014. Prime Minister Renzi is acutely tuned into the important role of technology in today’s global environment. He understands the power and reach of digital platforms, and is tapping into social media networks to engage with the public and advance his views on government and reform.

Prime Minister Renzi visited our studios in Sunnyvale, where we produce some of our world class original content. We shared with him highlights from our around-the-clock coverage of the 2014 World Cup that generated more than 2 billion page views on Yahoo Sports.

Our guest then met with Marissa, who shared Yahoo’s growth strategy for key markets in Europe, including Italy. Jackie Reses, Chief Development Officer, Ken Goldman, Chief Financial Officer, and Mike Kerns, Senior Vice President for Homepage and Verticals, also joined the discussion to update on our digital magazine offerings, our focus on video, and the engineering talent powering our growth on mobile.

As a global tech company, we are proud to deliver an engaging and personalized experience to over 800 million users in 60 countries across 45 languages. We will continue to strengthen our global commitment by sharing inspiring products with our users, partnering with dynamic organizations like Italy’s Eurosport, and building relationships with key changemakers like Prime Minister Renzi.  

Your Digital Will: Your Choice

By Bill Ashworth, Senior Legal Director, Public Policy

At Yahoo, we take our users’ privacy seriously. That’s why we’re concerned with the draft legislation recently approved by the Uniform Law Commission (ULC), which would automatically give access to a person’s online content — including emails, photos, and instant messages — to the trustee of their estate at the time of their death. As our colleagues at NetChoice phrased it: “…the ULC model sets the privacy default at zero.“

There is no doubt that dealing with the loss of a relative is extraordinarily difficult. We do not believe, however, that the ULC’s proposed legislation (known as the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets, or “FADA”) offers the right approach to providing a family or fiduciary the information they need. First, it does not ensure the privacy of sensitive or confidential information shared by the decedent or third parties. Second, the ULC’s proposal is based on the faulty presumption that the decedent would have wanted the trustee to have access to his or her communications.

In order to protect our users’ privacy, we honor the initial agreement that a user made with us. When an individual signs up for a Yahoo account, they agree to our Terms of Service, which outlines that neither their account nor the contents of their private communications are  transferrable at the time of death. Our policy was crafted with our users’ privacy in mind, as well as the privacy of those who are party to sensitive email communications.

We believe that account holders and individuals—not legislators—should determine what happens to a person’s digital archives at the time of their death. When it comes to a person’s digital archive, our team will continue to argue in favor of a user’s right to privacy.

20th Anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act

By Megan Cristina, Senior Director, Yahoo Trust and Safety

On the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Violence Against Women Act, Yahoo applauds the groundbreaking spirit behind its enactment and the tremendous progress that has been made in reducing the rates of domestic violence. We also acknowledge that even in the wake of triumphs to empower and protect victims over the years, the conversation is far from over.

In the last 20 years, advances in technology can be seen everywhere in our lives; from how you navigate to an unknown location to how you share important news with family and friends. Built into our daily habits, technology is our bridge to connect with others and find information quickly. For victims of domestic violence, the implications can be far more serious. Having instant access to resources and knowing where to find help can make all the difference in ensuring their safety. At Yahoo, we want victims of domestic violence to have the resources they need to make educated choices about their online activities.

In partnership with the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH), Yahoo began to explore ways to better arm victims with access to their valuable resources. As an organization offering 24/7 victim support in over 170 languages, NDVH has served domestic violence victims for eighteen years, making progress in areas where speed and ease of access to resources is  critical. As a first phase, Yahoo and the NDVH have identified and enhanced certain search queries likely to be used by victims seeking help resources on Yahoo Search. Now, when entering these queries on Yahoo, a victim sees a distinct result nearest the top of the page, highlighting the hotline phone number and information. In addition, links to resources for victims of all ages have been highlighted on the Yahoo Safety Center; which offers best practices and product guidance to support user safety. These small measures that will be expanded over time, seek to serve a much bigger and more important end: having the right resources—easily discoverable—at the critical moment a victim may need them most.

On the anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, Yahoo looks to the next 20 years with hope and remains firmly committed to using the power of technology and its influence on daily habits—to innovate for the safety of all users.

Shedding Light on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC): Court Findings from Our 2007-2008 Case

By Ron Bell, General Counsel

Today we are pleased to announce the release of more than 1,500 pages of once-secret papers from Yahoo’s 2007-2008 challenge to the expansion of U.S. surveillance laws.

In 2007, the U.S. Government amended a key law to demand user information from online services. We refused to comply with what we viewed as unconstitutional and overbroad surveillance and challenged the U.S. Government’s authority.

Our challenge, and a later appeal in the case, did not succeed. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) upheld the predecessor to Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. The Court ordered us to give the U.S. Government the user data it sought in the matter.

The FISC and the FISC-R are “secret” courts that oversee requests by the U.S. Government for surveillance orders and other types of legal process in national security investigations. The Court’s hearings and records are closed to the public and typically classified. For example, our role in the 2007-2008 lawsuit remained classified until 2013. In spite of this, we fought to declassify and to share the findings from the case. A decision to open FISC or FISC-R records to the public is extremely rare. 

We consider this an important win for transparency, and hope that these records help promote informed discussion about the relationship between privacy, due process, and intelligence gathering.

Key takeaways from these documents include:

  • An expanded version of the FISC-R opinion in the case, originally released in 2008 in a more redacted form.

  • The release of the never-before-seen 2008 FISC opinion that we challenged on appeal.

  • The parties’ briefs, including some of the lower court briefings in the appendices.

  • An Ex-Parte Appendix of classified filings.

  • A partially redacted certification filed with the FISC, as well as a mostly unredacted directive that Yahoo received.  

Despite the declassification and release, portions of the documents remain sealed and classified to this day, unknown even to our team. The released documents underscore how we had to fight every step of the way to challenge the U.S. Government’s surveillance efforts. At one point, the U.S. Government threatened the imposition of $250,000 in fines per day if we refused to comply.

Our fight continues. We are still pushing for the FISC to release materials from the 2007-2008 case in the lower court. The FISC indicated previously that it was waiting on the FISC-R ruling in relation to the 2008 appeal before moving forward. Now that the FISC-R matter is resolved, we will work hard to make the materials from the FISC case public, as well.

Users come first at Yahoo. We treat public safety with the utmost seriousness, but we are also committed to protecting users’ data. We will continue to contest requests and laws that we consider unlawful, unclear, or overbroad.

NOTE: As there is no FISC-R public docket, we’d like to thank the Center for Democracy and Technology (LINK) for hosting the documents released by the FISC.

 

The Time Is Now: Updating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA)

By Margaret Stewart Nagle, Head of US Government Affairs

Yahoo stands with the coalition members of Digital Due Process in calling on Congress to bring to the floor H.R. 1852/S. 607—  bipartisan legislation to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA).

At Yahoo, we are committed to protecting our users’ privacy.  In 1986 when ECPA was originally drafted, technology did not yet touch each aspect of an individual’s life as it does now.  Today our users’ daily habits are increasingly powered, driven and dependent of technology. 

Although our users’ daily habits have drastically evolved to become intertwined with technology, the fundamental right to Constitutional due process should remain firm.  Updating ECPA would make it clear that the warrant standard of the Constitution applies to the content of an individual’s private digital communications, just as it applies to physical property. 

Earlier this summer, we commended Representatives Kevin Yoder, Tom Graves, and Jared Polis for their bipartisan leadership in helping H.R. 1852 reach a major milestone with 218 Representatives supporting the bill.  Today, the bill is co-sponsored by over 260 Members from both sides of the aisle.

The time to act is now. 

We urge the leaders in the House and Senate to bring this legislation to the floor to ensure that the values of the US Constitution continue to be upheld in the digital age. 

Keeping the Internet Open & Free

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By Margaret Nagle, Executive Director & Head of US Government Affairs

Right now, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering critically important rules around how best to ensure that the Internet remains an open platform for innovation.

At Yahoo, we firmly believe that a…

Welcoming Yoani Sanchez, award-winning Cuban blogger, as the next Yahoo Fellow @ Georgetown University

By Tekedra Mawakana, VP & Deputy General Counsel, Global Public Policy

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Few people symbolize the ability of one individual to empower, unite and inspire like Yoani Sanchez.

Yoani is an award-winning Cuban journalist, blogger, and author, recognized internationally for her promotion of freedom of expression online. I’m incredibly pleased to share that Yoani is this year’s Yahoo Fellow in International Values, Communications Technology and the Global Internet at Georgetown University.

We launched this program back in 2007, when we announced a $1 million gift to Georgetown University to support the study of how international values impact the development and use of communication technologies. Yoani brings significant and unique personal experience to this fellowship, having pushed the boundaries of digital communication in a country where the internet is characterized by limited bandwidth, censorship, and high cost. Her blog,Generation Y, is translated into nearly two-dozen languages and receives more than 14 million visits per month. In Spring 2014, Yoani launched Cuba’s first digital daily newspaper,14ymedio.

Over the coming academic year, Yoani will focus on digital journalism and her recently launched online daily. She’ll connect with Georgetown students, faculty, and various other audiences across the United States to share her unique perspective on the power of digital tools to empower journalism and broad dialogue, all against the backdrop of Cuba’s largely inaccessible digital communication environment.

We all stand to learn from Yoani’s courage, creativity and perseverance. Yahoo is honored to support Yoani this academic year as she shares her perspectives and sparks dialogue from coast-to-coast.

You can find more information here in Georgetown University’s press release.

Data Center Investment: Keeping Washington State Competitive

By Bill Ashworth, Senior Legal Director, Public Policy

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Josh Schuyleman, Manager of our Quincy, WA, data center, gives a tour of our Yahoo Computing Coop architecture, a chicken coop-shaped facility that uses less energy and water than conventional data centers, and eliminates the need for expensive chillers.

At Yahoo, we’re proud of the award-winning network of data centers we’ve built around the world, characterized by their efficiency, sustainability, and positive impact on local communities.

We’ve got a lot of flexibility when it comes to locating our data centers. We are able to effectively manage our users’ online data almost regardless of where we choose to build a data center. That said, we seek out locations that have the right mix of talented people to help us grow a great team, affordable and renewable energy resources (hydro, wind, solar), and a political and economic environment that are conducive to growth and development.

Our data center in Quincy, Washington stands out as one of our key three owned and operated data center facilities in the United States. Since we first broke ground seven years ago, our data center has created well-paying jobs for the people of Quincy and brought significant investment to the area.

One of the reasons we decided to build our data center in Quincy was the attractive rural tax incentives offered by Washington State to companies like ours to build and expand on data centers. These tax incentives are up for renewal in 2015. Without these tax incentives, and given the intense competition by other states to attract investment, we and other tech companies with data centers in the area will need to examine carefully whether our continued investment in Quincy makes sense. It’s also important to recognize that low cost power alone will not be enough for Washington to continue to attract and retain the investment of tech companies such as ours.

This week, our team had the opportunity to engage with Washington State and Quincy City officials to make the case for extending the rural tax incentives. We were pleased to host members of the Washington State House Finance Committee for a tour of our data center. They were able to see first hand the level of investment we’ve made in our facility, our overall commitment to environmental sustainability and innovation, and to meet our accomplished and committed team. Perhaps most importantly, they were able to see how data center investment has improved the quality of life for the citizens of Quincy, Washington.

The Washington State House Finance Committee also hosted a hearing on the tax incentives issue — we, Microsoft, Sabey and others with data centers participated. Josh Schuyleman, Manager of our Quincy data center, and Gabriel Lopez, a member of our Quincy data center facilities team, shared their personal stories. Josh and Gabriel were both born and raised in the immediate area in and around Quincy. They chose to stay in Quincy, a farm town with a population of about 7,000 people, because of the career opportunities Yahoo’s data center offered. Josh and Gabriel are critical members of our Quincy operations and really represent the spirit of our company. We were honored that they chose to testify on behalf of Yahoo on this important occasion.

Josh and Gabriel’s compelling personal stories reflect the positive impact our data center investment has had in Quincy. We urge the State of Washington to extend the rural tax incentives beyond 2015. This will help Washington remain competitive and allow companies like Yahoo to continue to expand on the investment and team that we’ve built in Quincy over the years.