From today’s New York Times…
BEIJING, Jan. 5 – Microsoft has shut the blog site of a well-known Chinese blogger who uses its MSN online service in China after he discussed a high-profile newspaper strike that broke out here one week ago.
The decision is the latest in a series of measures in which some of America’s biggest technology companies have cooperated with the Chinese authorities to censor Web sites and curb dissent or free speech online as they seek access to China’s booming Internet marketplace.
Microsoft drew criticism last summer when it was discovered that its blog tool in China was designed to filter words like “democracy” and “human rights” from blog titles. The company said Thursday that it must “comply with global and local laws.”
“This is a complex and difficult issue,” said Brooke Richardson, a group product manager for MSN in Seattle. “We think it’s better to be there with our services than not be there.”
The site pulled down was a popular one created by Zhao Jing, a well-known blogger with an online pen name, An Ti. Mr. Zhao, 30, also works as a research assistant in the Beijing bureau of The New York Times.
Lots of stuff on the Web about this. Here, for example, is a translation of what Zhao has said about the experience on his blog-city site (mirrored at ZonaLatina.com):
On the afternoon when Microsoft deleted my space, I did not feel anything at all. A few days ago, I was at Peking University speaking to students and someone asked me whether MSN Spaces would be shut down on account of me. My response was, “When the warning comes, Microsoft will sell me out first. So everybody should feel free to use MSN Spaces.” I sensed that the day will be coming. Over the last days, the daily traffic was about 15,000, and then everything was deleted. Damn Great Wall, damn Microsoft. I will make Microsoft pay.
That night, I felt bad and I cried.
It is so hard to be a free Chinese person. This year, my blog was shut down twice because I supported media (Chinese Youth Daily and Beijing News). When I was in Hong Kong, I told the reporters that I know where the bottom line is. The problem is that when my fellow media are in trouble, it is my obligation as a member of the news media to offer support immediately. Under this type of moral obligation, personal bottom lines are irrelevant. One can continue to live meticulously and technically, but one must also have another side that puts everything aside to express true feelings.
One of the most interesting developments is a post by Microsoft’s most famous Blogger, Scobelizer, in which he says:
OK, this one is depressing to me. It’s one thing to pull a list of words out of blogs using an algorithm. It’s another thing to become an agent of a government and censor an entire blogger’s work. Yes, I know the consequences. Yes, there are thousands of jobs at stake. Billions of dollars. But, the behavior of my company in this instance is not right.
Some people within the Microsoft chain of command are reported to be taking this issue up. So they should.