Microsoft revamps blogging policy
The move follows outrage after company censored Chinese blogger
IDG News Service - LISBON -- In the face of outrage from many of its own employees over its abrupt censoring of a Chinese blogger, Microsoft Corp. has formulated a new policy to deal with requests from a government that alleges that posted material violates its laws.
The measures were detailed by Microsoft's top lawyer, Brad Smith, at the Government Leaders Forum in Lisbon today.
Smith said Microsoft will remove blogs only when given proper legal notice. And even then, it will block access to that material only within the country where it is deemed unlawful. The site will still be viewable from outside the country, he said.
Microsoft is readying technology that will allow the blocking of blogs just within a specific country, Smith said. "We will act when we have the legal duty to do so," he said. "We will act when we are given the kind of notice that clearly makes that duty binding upon us."
Moreover, Microsoft will notify the owner of the blog that the site was removed as a result of a notice from government. The company also called for stronger measures to deal with the privacy and free-expression issues arising from the rapid adoption of communication technologies.
The unexpected announcement was immediately praised by Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Robinson said she was "extremely pleased" and that the move was of "crucial importance."
Microsoft's new policy is a clear response to the wide criticism the company received over the last month since it shut down the site of Chinese blogger Zhao Jing, also known as Michael Anti (see "Microsoft shuts down Chinese blogger's site").
After Microsoft removed the site from its MSN Spaces at the end of last year, the company was sharply criticized for aiding in the enforcement of laws that are widely considered to violate rights to free expression.
Zhao's blog was removed from servers located in the U.S., which blocked the viewing of his page from anywhere. Under Microsoft's new policy, it appears that Zhao's blog still would have been removed.
In a roundtable interview with journalists, Smith defended Microsoft's actions, saying the company examined both the request from the Chinese government and the law in relation to Zhao's blog.
Microsoft operates MSN Spaces under a license, and the service is regulated by the Shanghai News, an instrument of the Chinese government, Smith said. The office has the legal authority under Chinese law to issue an official notification to the company to remove access to material in some circumstances, he said.
In Zhao's case, the
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