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Microsoft yesterday outlined its policy for dealing with government requests to remove blogs from its MSN service and called for "broad dialogue" on how the industry should deal with government censorship of blogs.

In future Microsoft will only pull content from MSN when it receives official legal notice that content breaks local laws or MSN's terms and conditions.

Content will only be blocked from view in the country which objects to it - the rest of the world will still be able to access it. This is a new function of MSN which the company is in the process of implementing. Additionally, Microsoft will inform the blog's author when content is removed by government order.

Microsoft's general counsel Brad Smith called on the IT industry, governments and "other stakeholders and advocacy groups to produce a set of principles that should guide policies and practices of global internet companies providing services around the world".

Smith echoed Google's justification for censoring its search results in China by saying Microsoft believed it was better for customers that Microsoft was present in these markets in a restricted form than not at all.

Read the full Microsoft statement here.

In other news, lobby group Amnesty International has taken up the case of Shi Tao - the Chinese blogger sentenced to ten years for sending an email to the US. Yahoo! handed over his email account information to Chinese authorities.

Amnesty is urging concerned citizens to write to Yahoo! bosses Jerry Yang and David Filo. The template letter asks Yahoo! to use its influence to get Shi Tao released, stop undermining human rights anywhere else, and develop an actual human rights policy.

More details from Amnesty here.®

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