Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Microsoft shuts down Chinese blog critical of government


Company says it is obligated to follow laws of nations in which it operates; critics say Microsoft is undermining free speech in return for share of Chinese market

Microsoft Corp. has shut down a popular Chinese language blog that criticized the government and carried news of events that authorities wanted censored.

According to reports from the Associated Press and the London Telegraph, the action came amid criticism by free-speech groups, which have accused Microsoft and other major technology companies of helping China suppress free speech in exchange for entrée into that nation's enormous Internet market.

Microsoft confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that it shut down the blog at the request of the Chinese government. The Internet publication was posted on a Microsoft blogging and website service and was written by Chinese journalist Zhao Jing, who most recently put himself at odds with party leaders by criticizing the government's firing of editors at an outspoken Beijing newspaper.

A statement from Microsoft executive Brook Richardson said, in part, that Microsoft is "committed to ensuring that products and services comply with global and local laws, norms, and industry practices in China," according to a report from the Agence France-Presse. "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."

China imposes strict controls on Internet communications, with police monitoring the content of sites and the surfing habits of users.

Microsoft faced criticism last year when its Chinese blogging service restricted the use of terms such as "demonstration," "democratic movement," and "Taiwan independence," according to a report from the Perth, Australia, Sunday Times.

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