Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Microsoft: Happy to Help Tyranny

How wonderful that amoral Bill Gates and his amoral company are helping the Chinese government maintain their dictatorship:

Civil liberties groups have condemned an arrangement between Microsoft and Chinese authorities to censor the internet.

The American company is helping censors remove "freedom" and "democracy" from the net in China with a software package that prevents bloggers from using these and other politically sensitive words on their websites.

The restrictions, which also include an automated denial of "human rights", are built into MSN Spaces, a blog service launched in China last month by Shanghai MSN Network Communications Technology, a venture in which Microsoft holds a 50% stake.

Users who try to include such terms in subject lines are warned: "This topic contains forbidden words. Please delete them."
Even the most basic political discussion is difficult because "communism", "socialism", and "capitalism" are blocked in this way, although these words can be used in the body of the main text. Many taboo words are predictable, such as "Taiwanese independence", "Tibet", "Dalai Lama", "Falun Gong", "terrorism" and "massacre". But there are also quirks that reflect the embryonic nature of net censorship and the propaganda ministry's perceived threats.

The word "demonstration" is taboo, but "protest" is all right; "democracy" is forbidden, but "anarchy" and "revolution" are acceptable. On MSN Space, Chinese bloggers cannot use the name of their own president, but can comment on Tony Blair. "Tiananmen" cannot be mentioned.

A Microsoft spokesman said the restrictions were the price the company had to pay to spread the positive benefits of blogs and online messaging.

"Even with the filters, we're helping millions of people communicate, share stories, share photographs and build relationships. For us, that is the key point here," Adam Sohn, a global sales and marketing director at MSN, told the Associated Press news agency.
For Microsoft, it appears to be a concession to authoritarianism on the net. It comes only months after Microsoft's boss, Bill Gates, praised China's leaders, who have mixed market economics with rigid political control. "It is a brand new form of capitalism, and as a consumer it's the best thing that ever happened," he said.

Uh huh! Tyranny is the "best thing that ever happened." The Chinese are bigger butchers than Hitler, but they're our friends.

Anyone want to bet that Microsoft has some similar agreement with the US government, not to censor, but report?


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