MSN China No Place For Freedom Or Democracy

    June 13, 2005
    WebProNews Staff

Chinese users of MSN Spaces, a blog service available through MSH China, find certain terms rejected by the portal.

MSN China, a joint venture between Microsoft and Shanghai Alliance Investment Ltd, will not let its Chinese visitors use certain words or terms for blog titles.

Attempts to input words in Chinese such as “democracy” or “freedom” prompted an error message from the site: “This item contains forbidden speech. Please delete the forbidden speech from this item.” Other phrases banned included the Chinese for “demonstration”, “democratic movement” and “Taiwan independence.”

The blocking, similar to what happens to users of Google and Yahoo in China, is an effort to mitigate government fears about the Internet. Political censors in China could shut down an offending site, a fate MSN China wants to avoid.

The Chinese market of Internet uses grows each year, and search providers want to have access to that fast-growing search advertising market. None wish to endanger their presence by drawing the wrath of censors; one way to help avoid this is to work with local companies familiar with the ins and outs of Internet business in China.

Microsoft has done this by taking a 50 percent stake in Shanghai MSN Network Communication Technology. That concern runs MSN Spaces, and likely has helped implement the software that enables auto-censoring on the blogs.

MSN has not publicly commented on the issue. The joint venture says MSN Spaces users must accept a code of conduct to use the service. That code of conduct forbids the posting of content that violates local or national laws.

But according to The Financial Times, there is no Chinese law banning the mere use of words like democracy.

David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.