Friday, January 6, 2006

Microsoft assists the Chinese Communists

Back in June of last year, the censoring authorities in China ordered owners of all Chinese websites and blogs to register with the government. Failure to comply results in the shutting down of your site in addition to heavy fines. I posted on the subject here, and also discovered that Bill Gates and Microsoft were providing assistance to the Communist authorities via MSN spaces:

Chinese bloggers who use Microsoft's new Chinese-language Web portal will have to watch what they say.

There are reports that users of the MSN Spaces service face restrictions on certain words, such as "freedom", "democracy" and "human rights."

Agence France-Presse said bloggers who attempted to use those words were said to generate a message saying the language was prohibited.

"This message contains a banned expression, please delete this expression," the pop-up warning reads.

MSN marketing director Adam Sohn confirmed that Microsoft was working with the Chinese government to censor language, but did not give examples.
Today, after visiting Dust my Broom, I learn that Microscam's meddling is not restricted to sites originating in China, but effects users of MSN spaces outside of China, including those in the US. Lost Budgie is following the story, as is Rebecca MacKinnon, here, here and here.

From CNET news:
The blog, written by Zhao Jing, also known as Michael Anti, was removed from MSN servers on Dec. 31, according to investigative journalist and former CNN reporter Rebecca Mackinnon. She claimed that the blog was actively removed by MSN staff rather than being blocked by Chinese authorities.

A Microsoft representative told ZDNet UK on Wednesday that it blocked Anti's MSN Space blog to help ensure that the service complied with local laws in China.

"MSN is committed to ensuring that products and services comply with global and local laws, norms and industry practices. Most countries have laws and practices that require companies providing online services to make the Internet safe for local users. Occasionally, as in China, local laws and practices require consideration of unique elements," the representative said.

Questions still remain over why a site believed to be hosted in the United States has to comply with Chinese law. Microsoft responded to requests for more information on this issue by stating that "Microsoft is a multinational business and, as such, needs to manage the reality of operating in countries around the world."
It is extremely ironic and hypocritical that a company that has been instrumental in opening up communications across the world is now actively assisting oppressive, censoring regimes.