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'Disgust' as Microsoft censors Chinese blogs

Press freedom outfit speaks out

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Reporters Without Borders (RSF) - the press freedom outfit - is "disgusted" that Microsoft is censoring its MSN blog service in China.

The software giant has bowed to Beijing's political censors banning 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".

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.

In a statement RSF said: "The lack of ethics on the part of [Microsoft] is extremely worrying. Their management frequently justifies collaboration with Chinese censorship by saying that all they are doing is obeying local legislation.

"Does that mean that if the authorities asked Microsoft to provide information about Chinese cyberdissidents using its services that it would agree to do so, on the basis that it is 'legal'?

"We believe that this argument does not hold water and that these multinationals must respect certain basic ethical principles, in whatever country they are operating," it said.

A spokeswoman for Microsoft told The Register: "MSN abides by the laws, regulations and norms of each country in which it operates. The content posted on member spaces is the responsibility of individuals who are required to abide by MSN's Code of Conduct." ®

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