Chinese bloggers on Microsoft's MSN now face regulation of censors

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

As of Tuesday, Chinese bloggers on Microsoft's MSN service will face the scrutiny of automated censors. Microsoft is changing the Chinese version of its blogging portal MSN Spaces to reject certain words deemed contentious — words such as 'democracy', 'freedom', 'human rights', and 'Taiwan independence'. The company states that the purpose of this action is to comply with local laws in China, a country with heavy regulation of online speech. This follows on the heels of an earlier action taken by the government of the People's Republic of China that required all Chinese bloggers to register their web journals with the government.

Ever since the Communist Party of China (CPC) took control of the government in 1945, the press has been strictly regulated, but with the advent of the internet, there were worries on the part of the CPC on whether their influence on the Chinese media would hold. As Chinese officials called for a more regulated internet, outsiders dismissed such regulation as impossible and contradictory of what the internet stands for. Yet government censorship prevailed with the installation of a complex system of proxies and firewalls (colloquially known as the Great Firewall of China), blocking Chinese internet users from accessing sites that ran counter to the censorship policy. A further crackdown in 2003 resulted in the closure of many internet cafés and the arrest of dozens of users.

With this recent action, Microsoft has come under scrutiny by Reporters Without Borders. Microsoft has issued a statement saying that it is its policy to comply with local laws and regulations of each country where it operates. Microsoft is not the only company obliging to the censorship policy of the People's Republic of China — Nortel, Yahoo! and Google have been criticised for similar measures. Google was blocked by the Chinese censors for some amount of time in the past, as has been Wikipedia, the sister project of Wikinews.

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Sources

(ABC's Paul Allen interviews Professor Ronald Deibert of the University of Toronto)

(The Chinese Blog Revolution as of November 2004)