Shervin Pishevar, president of web hosting site Freewebs, called for a boycott on Yahoo in a phone conversation. Pishevar called me from an airport and chatted about the now infamous incident this week when he asked Yahoo CEO Terry Semel, "Would you have cooperated with Nazi Germany?" and Terry refused to say no. Among other things, Shervin said he wants to start a nation-wide boycott of Yahoo in America.
"I was pretty shocked with his answer," Shervin told me. "It was pretty scary asking that question. But I had a sense in the back of my mind that he'd be poorly prepared."
"He was definitely unprepared for that line of logic. His line of logic is so nonchalant." Shervin described the scene — the D Conference, held by the Wall Street Journal, where Terry Semel is on stage with WSJ columnist Walt Mossberg. "It's a roomful of reporters, and he would put them all in jail if the government told him."
What was the reaction like? "It was complete stunned silence."
After the jump, Shervin calls for a boycott. Meanwhile, China started blocking Freewebs pages two days ago.
"I'm not saying China is Nazi Germany. My point is, where does it stop?"
Pishevar compares Internet publishing companies like Freewebs and Yahoo to hands-off editors. "We can't edit people's content, we have to give them a platform to express themselves, and if they say something that the government doesn't like, we can't go delete it. We can't give the guy's IP address to the government."
Freeweb has refused requests from the Chinese government to turn over records. Two days ago, Chinese users started reporting that they couldn't access the site. "My thirst for traffic is not going to make me go against my principles," says Pishevar. "We're talking to the Chinese embassy. Any words like 'Falun Gong', they want us to not have that. I'm not gonna have that. I'm not gonna get rid of people's freedom."
I ask him how he thinks Yahoo will spin the Semel Nazi incident. "They're probably gonna hire fake blogger people to say something supportive. The're probably gonna attack me for asking the question...It's starting to escalate, which is good. There needs to be a massive response."
Pishevar is pissed — but he's also just shocked that Semel couldn't answer his question with a clear "No." "The CEO of Yahoo said 'I don't know what I'd do.'" Pishevar laughs incredulously. "And Google too, at least they're kind of up front, whereas these guys are just giving information."
So what's the course of action? "Americans should boycott Yahoo products until they get the message that freedom is an American ideal, and we're not going to give it up."