Microsoft Modifies Blog Censorship Policies

Posted on February 1, 2006

Microsoft says it has modified its policy to allow blogs that it has shutdown at the request a local government (like China) to still be viewed by other countries. Globetechnology reports that Microsoft will also provide a notice that it has shut down a blog.

The Redmond software company, which operates a popular blogging technology called MSN Spaces, said Tuesday that the changes will include efforts to make the banned content available to users elsewhere in the world even if Microsoft decides it has a legal duty to block it in a particular country.

The company also pledged to provide users with a clear notice that it has shut down a Web site because it received a legally binding notice that the material violates local laws. Previously, it has simply said the content was unavailable.

What would also be helpful is if Microsoft provides an ongoing list of blogs they shutdown at the request of other governments. Microsoft most recently shut down the blog of Chinese journalist Zhao Jing. PC Pro says the new policy comes with a shut down risk to Microsoft.
Microsoft has said that it 'will remove access to blog content only when it receives a legally binding notice from the government indicating that the material violates local laws, or if the content violates MSN's terms of use'.

The Chinese agencies will have to first find offending content, and then send Microsoft a separate letter for each instance it finds, putting the onus, and the overhead for content blocking, on Chinese officials.

If the Chinese agencies decide that, in doing this, Microsoft is failing to adequately block the content it doesn't want available it could shut Microsoft's MSN Spaces blog service down.

Maybe that could happen but Beijing will probably be able to find enough lawyers to write all the letters they need. Microsoft's announcement makes it sound like they are expecting more requests to shutdown blogs as they now have a streamlined procedure in place.

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