A few months back, Microsoft made the decision that it would kowtow to the Chinese government’s request that it censor the use of specific words and phrases via their blogging tool MSN Spaces. Now the tech giant has gone yet one step further, shutting down the entire blog of a user of their web-hosting services, for touching on “politically sensitive issues.”
The blog, allegedly written by a research assistant employed by the Beijing bureau of The New York Times, dared to take up touchy issues like China’s relationship with Taiwan, and presumably employed such no-no phrases as “democracy”, “freedom” and “human rights”—and as a result, got the official smackdown from both the Chinese government and Microsoft.
Explaining why a company based in the US, with all its laws ensuring freedom of speech, would capitulate to communist influences, Microsoft spokeswoman Brooke Richardson told the AP, “When we operate in markets around the world, we have to ensure that our service complies with global laws as well as local laws and norms.”
Free speech advocates, unsurprisingly, aren’t taking any comfort in that explanation. But many businesses are coming to Microsoft’s defense, pointing out that this is just the way the game is played in the international marketplace. Funny how life so often breaks down along these lines when it comes to the almighty dollar… or should I say, yen?