Microsoft has admitted to removing the blog of an outspoken Chinese
journalist from its MSN Spaces site, citing its policy of adhering to local
The blog, written by Zhao Jing, also known as Michael Anti, was removed from
MSN servers on Dec. 31, according to investigative journalist and former CNN
Mackinnon. She claimed that the blog was actively removed by MSN staff rather
than being blocked by Chinese authorities.
A Microsoft representative told ZDNet UK on Wednesday that it blocked Anti's
MSN Space blog to help ensure that the service complied with local laws
"MSN is committed to ensuring that products and services comply with global
and local laws, norms and industry practices. Most countries have laws and practices
that require companies providing online services to make the Internet safe for
local users. Occasionally, as in China, local laws and practices require consideration
of unique elements," the representative said.
Questions still remain over why a site believed to be hosted in the United
States has to comply with Chinese law. Microsoft responded to requests for more
information on this issue by stating that "Microsoft is a multinational
business and, as such, needs to manage the reality of operating in countries
around the world."
Responding to Mackinnon's report, Microsoft's own in-house blogger, Robert
Scoble, said he was "depressed" by the news and offered Anti the
opportunity to blog via his site.
"Guys over at MSN: Sorry, I don't agree with your being used as a state-run
thug," he said. "It's one thing to pull a list of words out of a blog
using an algorithm. It's another thing to become an agent of a government and
censor an entire blogger's work," Scoble wrote.
Scoble's comments referred to reports in June 2005, when Microsoft acknowledged
words such as "freedom" and "democracy" from its Chinese
MSN portal. In an e-mail sent to ZDNet UK sister site Silicon.com, Microsoft
said, "We don't disclose the list, but we do have the ability to change
and update the filter, as needed, to help ensure we abide by the laws, regulations
and norms of China."
Scoble's latest blog entry on the issue, made shortly before his departure
to the Consumer
Electronics Show (CES), which begins Thursday, states that he has had problems
tracking down the relevant parties in Microsoft to comment on the issue and
that some individuals have criticized him for commenting on the issue without
"I have been talking to lots of people today, though, inside and outside
of Microsoft. In every instance, they asked me to keep those conversations confidential.
Why? Cause we're talking about international relations here--and the lives of
employees," Scoble wrote.
In September, Yahoo was heavily criticized when it emerged that the portal
company had provided information to Chinese authorities that led
to the imprisonment of a Chinese journalist.
Andrew Donoghue of ZDNet
UK reported from London.