January 4, 2006 7:33 AM PST

Microsoft censors Chinese blogger

Microsoft has admitted to removing the blog of an outspoken Chinese journalist from its MSN Spaces site, citing its policy of adhering to local laws.

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."

Responding to Mackinnon's report, Microsoft's own in-house blogger, Robert Scoble, said he was "depressed" by the news and offered Anti the opportunity to blog via his site.

"Guys over at MSN: Sorry, I don't agree with your being used as a state-run thug," he said. "It's one thing to pull a list of words out of a blog using an algorithm. It's another thing to become an agent of a government and censor an entire blogger's work," Scoble wrote.

Scoble's comments referred to reports in June 2005, when Microsoft acknowledged censoring words such as "freedom" and "democracy" from its Chinese MSN portal. In an e-mail sent to ZDNet UK sister site Silicon.com, Microsoft said, "We don't disclose the list, but we do have the ability to change and update the filter, as needed, to help ensure we abide by the laws, regulations and norms of China."

Scoble's latest blog entry on the issue, made shortly before his departure to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which begins Thursday, states that he has had problems tracking down the relevant parties in Microsoft to comment on the issue and that some individuals have criticized him for commenting on the issue without checking further.

"I have been talking to lots of people today, though, inside and outside of Microsoft. In every instance, they asked me to keep those conversations confidential. Why? Cause we're talking about international relations here--and the lives of employees," Scoble wrote.

In September, Yahoo was heavily criticized when it emerged that the portal company had provided information to Chinese authorities that led to the imprisonment of a Chinese journalist.

Andrew Donoghue of ZDNet UK reported from London.

34 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
Microsoft is a puppet
Microsoft is nothing more than a puppet of the Chinese Communist Regime. I thought the internet was not supposed to be censored here in the United States but as usual, Microsoft is thinking only in terms of monetary gain and to hell with freedom of expression. I wish Gates, Balmer and the rest of the M$ crew could spend a few months in a Chinese prison. Maybe then they would appreciate what freedom of expression really means.
Posted by yrrahxob (77 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You are a puppet
The age of legal consent in the US is higher than in many countries. When non-US companies remove nude photos of a 17 y/o girl from their servers does that make them puppets of the US? I thought the internet was not supposed to be censored?
Posted by Dachi (797 comments )
Link Flag
The Microsoft adds are pure propaganda, Microsoft is part of Murder INC.
Microsoft is now part of a big RED Murdering machine, that executes people who have unique thought.

Microsoft Adds are all propaganda and lies. How dare they claim they are part of making peoples dreams come true.

Microsoft is now all about HOW NIGHTMARES CONTINUE.

Microsoft should apologize, re-instate the blog. And admit that it was helping the Communist Totalitarian Government in Peking to squish/kill/torture people for the sake of the decadent fat cats at the top in China (who can get away with whatever they please).
Posted by Jake Leone (143 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Is this new?
All that you say may indeed be true...or it may not...or it may be
partially true.
We in America back in the 1950s as a "free thinking demacracy"
did all you said to anyone who was, or was reported to be,
communist or somehow sympathetic with social communism.
And recently, with the PAtriot Act, America's back in the
buisness of arresting without charges, imprisoning without trial
and using torture 'when necessary'. To China, your comments
must sound like the Pot calling the Kettle 'Red'.
Posted by Riphly (15 comments )
Link Flag
If Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer don't rectify this, then they are traitors
Anyone who allows this, and so far these 2 are, is a traitor. And further (if they allow this or do not rectify this) -

- (if they allow this or do not rectify this) They are traitors, though and through.

- (if they allow this or do not rectify this) They are the kind of people who will stab out country in the back, if there is ever a crisis.

- (if they allow this, do not rectify this) They believe in money, not the constitution of the United Stated.

- (if they allow this, do not rectify this) they are traitors who should go live in China permanently, that's where they belong.
Posted by Jake Leone (143 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yahoo not that great either
"In September, Yahoo was heavily criticized when it emerged that the portal company had provided information to Chinese authorities that led to the imprisonment of a Chinese journalist."

I don't like Yahoo as I think it is totally biased on their news where Google just takes the most popular Yahoo has a definite LIBERAL bias.
Yahoo is just too commercial like AOL. Blah!

Enough IS Enough, its time to stand up and quash this garbage one and for all!

If MS wants to be global then quit colluding with minor isolated governments that dont do squat for the people!
Posted by Blito (436 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MS isn't part of a conspiracy....
... all MS cares about is the bottom line, wherever the money comes
from. And if something is going to impede the cash flow, MS is
obligated to remove it. It's not censorship, it's simple business. Or
at least, business the way MS defines it.

You expected better?
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
incase you didn't know
Companies don't have a duty to topple dictatorships, unless of corse they are Dictatorship Topplers Inc. Then the share holders would expect it.

Unlss you have done something spectacular for the people of China this month I wouldn't complain too loudly about some one else not doing bucking the status quo either.
Posted by Bob Brinkman (556 comments )
Link Flag
Dumb article, dumber comments
If China wants to impose these rules on its own people why is it the responsibility of MS to stand in the way?

This article is just a cheap shot at MS intended to stir up knee-jerk reactions from readers.
Posted by Dachi (797 comments )
Reply Link Flag
M$ isn't just enabling China to enforce their laws
It would be one thing for M$ to fail to prevent China from enforcing its own laws. However, they are going the extra step of enforcing Chinese laws on USAn soil. If M$ wants to act as a branch of the Chinese Police, then they should be treated as just that by our own government and people.
Posted by Gorbag (31 comments )
Link Flag
Not Quite Right
According to the article, the content was hosted on American servers so Chinese law doesn't apply. If China wants, they can filter it, as they often do. Nobody claims that it is M$'s responsibility to "stand in the way" but why the hell are they caving in to those communist ******** in China regarding content on American servers?
Posted by J_Satch (571 comments )
Link Flag
Ignorance is no excuse
"If China wants to impose these rules on its own people why is it the responsibility of MS to stand in the way?"

Reread the article before you speak again. MS is not "standing in the way". It is enabling the Chinese government to oppress the Chinese people.
Posted by tabhastal (3 comments )
Link Flag
You are obviously not chinese...
It's funny how many people could care less about the freedom of others. Maybe you should try for one second to put yourself in the shoes of the opressed chinese and consider the words of Jesus to "love your neighbor as yourself."
Posted by nrambeck (12 comments )
Link Flag
No need to bash MS
If MS goes against Chinese govt rules, then China will kick MS out of China using some rule or the other. It is just bad business for MS and you (as an MS Shareholder) will cry. If China kicks MS out of China will you stop buying chinese goods at walmart???
So why should it stick its neck out?
Posted by whytakeiteasy (29 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Exactly....
... MS cares only about maximizing income, whatever it takes. And
security does not help income.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Link Flag
If China kicked MS out
If China kicked MS out, I would be more likely to buy Chinese goods!
Posted by ddesy (4336 comments )
Link Flag
it's easier
To cry about some guy's diary as if it was an important work of writing.
Posted by Bob Brinkman (556 comments )
Link Flag
Morals vs. Mammon: which side are you on?
Mammom was a god of the ancient Carthaginians, who sacrificed their children to it by burning them alive. Mammon symbolizes the love of money above all else, regardless of consequences to innocent people. I think it would be something of an exaggeration to compare Microsoft or Yahoo's actions to worshipping Mammon, but I do think they've come rather close to that.

We all have to decide for ourselves which "side" to choose (it's not so much a side as a point on a continuum of grays) but there is a moral decision at stake here. Those who say that MS is justified in shutting down the blogger because they need to keep making money should contemplate the fact that any drug lord could easily use that criterion to justify murder.
Posted by KittyMartyr (19 comments )
Link Flag
I couldn't DISAGREE more!
When did money become more important that ethics, morals, or
heaven forbid, freedom (which our country was founded on and MS
wouldn't be the company it is today without it)!

People need to wake up and realize that there are more important
things than the almighty DOLLAR!

Their actions are cowardly, and motivated by pure greed. Yeah,
that's the kind of world I want to live in...<sarcasm/>
Posted by fuzz_ball (7 comments )
Link Flag
Its Called a Backbone
My father died a few years back. He lived during the rise and fall of the Third Reich, Japanese Imperialism, and the Communism. He also witnessed the McCarthy era, as well as the civil rights movement. His advise is as right now as it ever was;

"You got to stand for something, or you'll fall for anything."

Your actions tell what you stand for. As Americans (and American businesses), we are supposed to stand for freedom. It is better to have a business fail, than to actively assist a government who does not uphold the same values.

Microsoft, Yahoo, and others who place a higher value on dollars than on freedom, will find that they will eventually loose both
Posted by Mandolin Picker (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
He He
They ARE standing for something. Shareholder's dollar value.

If there were an exchange that traded in "moral value" instead of dollar value, I am sure walmart would stop keeping chinese goods and ibm would stop offshoring to india.
Posted by whytakeiteasy (29 comments )
Link Flag
Comes down the the money
MS bent to the AFA a few months ago, too, and dropped backing of a crucial civil rights bill which created waves so fast that they quickly backtracked and denied any wrong doing. They have proved many times before that that their main concern is business, not people.

If MS had a backbone, they would refuse to do business in countries with a long reputation of serious human rights abuses. However, they have shown time and time again that their product proliferation and bottom line is all that matters, and have had to be forced in the courts to change anything at all.

I have occasionally wondered if MS existed during the 1930s, if it would have sold services to the Nazi party. After all, when you're a global business, you have to "manage the reality of operating in countries around the world" - so they would have adhered to anti-semitic laws of the time in order to continue to do business and bring in revenue. Perhaps they would have sold MS to Jews in the U.S., but not in Poland; perhaps even they would have censored the French resistance and given sympathizers a place to blog their hearts out, as long as it didn't bang up against the party mission and paint themselves a subversive threat to the government.

Some of these companies are getting so huge and so rich that they no longer care about the individual behind the purchase. Gone are the days of person to person anything. Companies this big and this rich no longer have a human identity - they've basically sold their souls for the money.
Posted by Stez (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Couldn't have said it better...
Dang.. You beat me to it, and I couldn't have said it better myself.
Just, follow the money people....
Posted by Grandewd (1 comment )
Link Flag
deja vous
All that you say may indeed be true...or it may not...or it may be
partially true.
We in America back in the 1950s as a "free thinking demacracy"
did all you said to anyone who was, or was reported to be,
communist or somehow sympathetic with social communism.
And recently, with the PAtriot Act, America's back in the
buisness of arresting without charges, imprisoning without trial
and using torture 'when necessary'. To China, your comments
must sound like the Pot calling the Kettle 'Red'.
Posted by Riphly (15 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Laws
But if we abide by all laws wouldent there be clashes as some say you can do this, and some say you cant. So we may aswel get rid of the internet cause im sure everything is braking someones law somewhere, like amish dont like electricity so using the computer is bad ya? *shrugs* I think people are just scared of change, because people saying what they thing can change other peoples perspecive on issues ^.^ Like gays and racisum. Got to bring it out so it can be discussed

;-)
Posted by Zoolooau (25 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Disappointment
After reading this message, I was astonished at the actions of Microsoft. What happened to free speech. It is not up to the US or any US company to manage free speech whether it be on the Internet or not. As long as the content is within acceptable decency guidelines. The Internet should be completely open and users only subject to the laws of the country where the comments were posted. I disagree with any US company or agency for filtering any comments of another country. Each country establishes their own laws and should be responsible for enforcing them. I feel Microsoft has taken this action solee because they want to do business with China.
Posted by scotthi (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What's next?
Bill Gates manually pulls switch on executing Chinese malcontents from the oval office all in the name of legalisms?
Posted by Blito (436 comments )
Reply Link Flag
In many countries the Bible is outlawed...
so is Microsoft going to take down any blogs that quote the Bible? What a sorry excuse. Why not just admit they are in bed with the Chinese government.
Posted by nrambeck (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So what's new?????
Countries have their rules about what they will allow what they
won't. Europe is a mass of various TV systems because one
country didn't want their people seeing television from another
country. Dictatorships don't like democracy. Non-Christian
nations don't like the bible, or at least they don't like the bible
thumpers telling them how wrong they are. Even Japan doesn't
like non-Japanese people. Etc., Etc., Etc. ..... That's the way the
world runs. And it always is a question of whether a banned item
is a legitimate prerogative of a nation or a cause for social
complaint.

And it's one thing to ban items within the country. It is
altogether another thing to try to extend the ban beyond the
country's borders. That's where China has overstepped itself,
and where MS has kowtowed to the Chinese economic dragon.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Link Flag
Capitolism pressured to obey Communist China
Ironic that MS people are so afraid of losing money to bad relations in a communist government.
American executives pressure the US Gov. to allow more "business" in China citing how capatilism made Russia drop communism. Instead, MS employees adopt censorship without even being ASKED.

Ah well, bribes work in ANY form of government...even if they are only in the form of contracts!
Posted by jluchford (23 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How naive everyone here is...
Corporations are more influential and often more powerful than governments. Their lobbying in influential political circles is only another form of corruption. Almost all top executives should be in jail for selling out OUR technology and knowledge, but mostly for destroying jobs in our countries.
Microsoft is in the social engineering business above all, and only for the money...
Posted by DeVizardofOZ (34 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.