As mentioned previously, Microsoft has come under fire for shutting down the MSN Spaces blog of a mainland Chinese investigative reporter to avoid offending the Chinese goverment. The story has now gotten widespread coverage. Some relevant excerpts:
Microsoft has joined Yahoo in the dubious club of companies willing to stifle free speech when the Chinese government tells them to.
The company has taken down a blog written by journalist Zhao Jing, also known as Michael Anti, from its MSN Spaces portal.
Zhoa Jing, a Beijing-based researcher for the New York Times, was critical of a recent management change in China and the government asked Microsoft to remove the blog.
“Most countries have laws and practices that require companies providing online services to make the internet safe for local users,” said a Microsoft spokesperson.
“Occasionally, as in China, local laws and practices require consideration of unique elements. This MSN Space has been blocked to help ensure that the service complies with local laws in China.”
However, since Zhoa Jing has not been convicted of any crime it is unclear which local laws have been broken.
Microsoft is refusing to say what laws blogger Zhoa Jing broke that caused it to remove his entries from the MSN server.
The company did, however, confirm that the blogger used an msn.com URL rather than msn.com.cn, which is reserved for Chinese servers run by Microsoft and a Chinese partner.
“I do not know where the physical server is located, but it would appear that Microsoft is permitting the Chinese authorities to exert control over content stored outside China,” said Daniel Simons, legal officer at free expression advocacy group Article 19.
In an interview with IDG News Service Wednesday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer reiterated that the company is bound to respect local law.
“We have an obligation in all the countries where we do business to abide by the laws and the government decrees in those countries,” Ballmer said. “We do here, we do in Europe; we also do in places like China. And anybody can choose not to do business in any country. We all have that option.”
There’s also more at the blog of Rebecca Mackinnon, a Research Fellow at the Havard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society where the story broke, including a photoshopped picture that they won’t like in Redmond.
NY Times: Microsoft Shuts Blog’s Site After Complaints by Beijing
AFP: Microsoft faces backlash after blocking Chinese blogger
ZDNet UK: Microsoft staff defend blog censorship
ZDNet: Microsoft censors Chinese blogger