The world's largest software company, Microsoft, is not allowing the Chinese version of its new Web portal to use words deemed politically sensitive by China's Communist Party. The media freedom organization Reporters Without Borders has condemned Microsoft for bowing to Beijing's censors.
Microsoft's new Web portal, MSN Spaces, is supposed to give people an online outlet for expressing themselves. But the Chinese version blocks words and subjects that Beijing considers subversive.
If a user tries to post a message that includes words such as "democracy," "freedom," or "human rights," an automatic message pops up warning the person not to use prohibited language.
Julien Pain directs the Internet Freedom Desk at the Paris-based media freedom organization Reporters Without Borders. He says Microsoft's self-censorship is unethical and unnecessary.
"If these companies, I am talking about the American Internet giants, would all agree to respect some basic principles, ethical values, they could have an influence on the Chinese policy,” said Mr. Pain. “They should stick to their values and refuse to collaborate with the Chinese censorship."
Microsoft's Beijing office had no immediate comment.
Microsoft is not the first information technology company to block information on behalf of Chinese authorities. Internet giants Yahoo and Google have taken similar steps to accommodate Beijing.
Companies doing business in China say they have no choice, but to obey local regulations including laws that limit freedom of expression.
Beijing recently passed a regulation requiring all China-based Web sites to register with the government by the end of June or they will be shut down.
China uses filtering and surveillance technology to tightly control the Internet.
Reporters Without Borders says at least 63 people are currently in jail in China for posting content the Communist Party bans.