Microsoft on Censorship

February 1, 2006

Topics: Blogging.

Continuing on the theme of censorship, Microsoft has announced a new stance on the censorship of blogs — the new policy is that they will only censor blogs when given explicit legal instructions to do so.

Now, it may seem slightly unclear as to what this change is. Does this imply that Microsoft was previously censoring blogs willy-nilly? Was it censoring whole categories of blogs, or any blog mentioning certain banned terms? The previous case which garned international attention in this matter was the censoring of Zhoa Jing’s blog. Zhoa Jing, a researcher in the employ of the New York Times, had criticized recent changes in Chinese management, and the Chinese government requested that Microsoft remove the blog.

What’s the difference here? From the perspective of most recent news, this so-called "new policy" is merely a reinforcement of this action. However, if you search more deeply, you can find evidence that Microsoft was indeed controlling the titles of blogs in China, by preventing certain keywords from being used to create the blog. However, this did not prevent bloggers from using those terms within a post.

So, in effect, a form of "pre-emptive" censorship.

So this new policy seems to be a positive development. One can only hope that the facts will demonstrate this! Additional policy changes include a change in the MSN blogging system which will permit banned blogs to be viewed outside of the censoring country and a notification system to provide advance notice to bloggers who are to be banned.

In addition to this significant development, Microsoft has taken the unusual step to call for internet companies to adopt a unified stance on official restrictions from the Chinese government. The appearance is certainly that Microsoft is attempting to manufacture some positive publicity out of the recent uproar concerning Google’s censored search engine service and their own censorship of Zhao Jing.

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