Does Microsoft not have lawyers?

Microsoft’s MSN Spaces is now removing Chinese language blogs that contain politically sensitive terms. Not only are users unable to create posts that contain certain keywords in the title through technical means, entire blogs are now being shutdown. Michael Anti, an pro-democracy blogger, had his blog shutdown by MSN. Microsoft responded with:

As a multi-national business, Microsoft operates in countries around the world. Inline with Microsoft practices in global markets, MSN is committed to ensuring that products and services comply with global and local laws, norms, and industry practices. 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.

While Robert Scoble has been critical of the incident some MSN employee bloggers (here and here) are, in effect, mirroring the companies position in that the company must comply with local laws. Childish arguments aside (yes, we all know that you cannot scream “I have a bomb” in an airport and then claim freedom of speech), it is quite clear that transparency and accountabilty are the key issues in this situation, not whether or not Microsoft should do business in China. Just as the censorship “issue is not really one that is binary” neither is Microsoft’s role in China one of in or out. The key questions here are: what specific law did the censored blog violate? Did Microsoft receive a court order to remove it?

Does Microsoft not have lawyers?

If it is an issue of law, Microsoft should take the issue to court and cause the Chinese Government to openly state why this specific blog should be removed. If it is an issue of “norms and industry practices” — i.e. Microsoft’s choice, not legal obligation, to remove the blog — then be open about it. The secrecy and silence is unacceptable.

One comment.

  1. 1,000 words…

    Ouch. By Sheepdog (via Rebecca) UPDATE: AsiaPundit is pleased that the Anti-Microsoft story is gaining legs, being picked up today in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, the UK’s Daily Telegraph and the Red Herring. Hopefully the attention…

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