Microsoft Censorship in China

Via Instapundit, comes this article by Rebecca MacKinnon on how blogs are filtered and censored in China, and in particular, how Time's Man of the Year Bill Gates seems to be taking a leadership role in the censorship arms race.

Microsoft's MSN Spaces continues to censor its Chinese language blogs,
and has become more aggressive and thorough at censorship since I first checked out MSN's censorship system last summer.  On New Years Eve, MSN Spaces took down the popular blog written by Zhao Jing, aka Michael Anti...

Now, It is VERY important to note that the inaccessible blog was moved
or removed at the server level and that the blog remains inaccessible
from the United States as well as from China. This means that the
action was taken NOT by Chinese authorities responsible for filtering
and censoring the Internet for Chinese viewers, but by MSN staff at the
level of the MSN servers.

In addition to taking down sites that offend the overlords of China, Microsoft is also actively filtering blog content

Back over the summer I wrote a post titled Screenshots of Censorship
about how MSN spaces was censoring the titles of its Chinese blogs, but
not posts themselves. According to my testing in mid-late December,
they now censoring much more intensely.   

On December 16th I created a blog and attempted to make various
posts with politically sensitive words. When I attempted to post
entries with titles like "Tibet Independence" or "Falun Gong
(a banned religious group), I got an error message saying: "This item
includes forbidden language. Please delete forbidden language from this
item."

I understand that the business climate in China causes businesses some difficult choices.  Refusing to acquiesce to certain government rules, like censorship, essentially cedes a large a growing market to the locals.  But at some point, that's just what you have to be willing to do, when market share is just too ethically expensive.

  • Al

    "But at some point, that's just what you have to be willing to do, when market share is just too ethically expensive."

    I think describing this as "ethically expensive" is a bit over the top. Selling state secrets, giving away designs for your country's latest weapons, laundering money for political contributions, that's ethically expensive. Deleting an account on a free blog service when someone breaks clearly stated rules is not.

  • Dave

    Microsoft says that doing business in China requires them to obey the Chinese law just as Chinese ISPs have done for years. I find this stance utterly repugnant. The Chinese ISPs have to do it whereas Microsoft doesn't have to do business in China. They are simply doing it for a few pieces of silver that Bill Gates certainly doesn't need. It must be awful to have so much money you want it ALL. I mean that sincerely, everyone needs money but Bill Gates seems to have a sickness that drives him to want every stiinking penny on the planet instead of enjoying what he has.

  • I think that by providing some functionality to Chinese citizens provides much more freedom than providing no functionality. I've written about it here (http://smilerz91.blogspot.com/2005/12/free-china.html) and would love to hear comments.

  • I totally agree with what you're saying. I wish more people felt this way and took the time to express themselves. Keep up the great work.
    mattmiller
    http://www.menucoversrbrite.com

  • You are right on the money with this one. Well said!

    Matt Miller
    http://www.menucoversrbrite.com