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Microsoft has bowed to Beijing's political censors and has banned the use of the words "freedom" and "democracy" on some areas of its Chinese internet portal, along with a host of other politically sensitive words such as "Taiwan independence" and "demonstration".

According to the Financial Times, portal operators have imposed the restriction on the names users give their blogs, although the words can still be used within blog's text. Users who try to use the offensive terminology are met with error messages informing them that they have used "forbidden speech", which they are asked to delete from the item.

The portal is operated by Shanghai MSN Network Communications Technology, a joint venture between Microsoft and Shanghai-government owned Shanghai Alliance Investment (Sail). Microsoft holds 50 per cent of the business.

So far, the software giant has refused to comment on the decision. However, in its official statement of Corporate Citizenship, the company states: "We work with businesses, communities, and governments to help advance social and economic well-being, and to enable people around the world to realize their full potential."

We can only assume that this will soon be modified to read "to enable people in lucrative new markets around the world to realize the potential deemed appropriate by their governing regime." ®

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