Microsoft's MSN services in China, says Reporters without Borders (also see the BBC), censor certain expressions when used by bloggers. Radical words such as "freedom", "democracy" and "demonstration" get blocked, and the user is warned, "This message contains a banned expression, please delete this expression." The term "human rights" also provokes the blocking software and warning.
Yahoo has also agreed to these restrictions.
Reporters without Borders comments,
The lack of ethics on the part of these companies 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" ?
I think it is time for all weblog users, along with citizens of the webworld overall, to boycott MSN until Microsoft reverses this policy.
In addition, notifying Microsoft that they are being boycotted can be done in these ways:
Mr. Bill Gates, recipient
Yahoo also deserves such treatment. Their web page is unhelpful regarding contact info. Google is also rumored to be considering caving in to the Chinese authorities, as they would not respond to Reporters without Borders requests for information on Google's policies since having opened Chinese offices.
Keep Reading if You're Feelin' Geeky
Notes: On a perhaps geeky, somewhat abstract tangent, I cannot help but see parallels between the closed nature of Mr. Gates' operating system and the closed nature of China's government. Perhaps some of my friends will now begin to understand why (private hobby horse alert!) I so appreciate Linux, the open-source alternative to Microsoft Windows.
In a spirited Steve Ballmer interview (Ballmer being the co-founder of Microsoft), from Microsoft's own site, Ballmer responds to a question about use of Microsoft technology by governments to control its populace:
"Where the laws are clear and where, for example, we hold e-mail on behalf of about 160 million people in the world and that's something that's private to those people, but to the degree that there's valid government inquiry and valid government court orders to see some of that mail, because it may come from the bad guys, so to speak, okay, we would produce it, of course."
Though this doesn't touch on the blogger issue, it does reveal the problem. Obviously the term that is squishy in the above answer is the term "valid." Who, or what, determines the validity of a government's inquiry? I suggest when it comes to China, "valid" is equivalent to bottom line. That is, "valid" can quickly come to equal "profit margin."
It is perhaps no surprise that in the same interview, the very next question asked has to do with Microsoft and other software giants suing researchers who pubish unfavorable data regarding their software's performance.