Freedom of Expression, Internet Responsibility, and Business Ethics: The Yahoo! Saga and Its Implications

Research paper by Raphael Cohen-Almagor

Indexed on: 31 Aug '11Published on: 31 Aug '11Published in: Journal of business ethics : JBE


In the late 1990s, the Internet seemed a perfect medium for business: a facilitator of unlimited economical propositions to people without any regulatory limitations. Cases such as that of Yahoo! mark the beginning of the end of that illusion. They demonstrate that Internet service providers (ISPs) have to respect domestic state legislation in order to avoid legal risks. Yahoo! was wrong to ignore French national laws and the plea to remove Nazi memorabilia from its auction site. Its legal struggle proved futile and may have harmed its business. This essay argues for the adoption of standards of corporate social responsibility (CSR). CSR considerations may trump some forms of antisocial, highly offensive expression.