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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 February 2006, 10:43 GMT
Microsoft opens up censored blogs
Google.cn homepage, AFP/Getty
Google has faced criticism for its stance on China
Microsoft has changed how it reacts to government calls to censor blogs.

Recently the software giant faced criticism for removing the blog of Chinese journalist Zhao Jing for writing about sensitive topics.

Now Microsoft says blogs or journals blocked inside one nation would remain readable outside that country.

The news comes as many hi-tech firms face criticism for their willingness to comply with local laws that limit what people can find and say online.

Legal call

The change in policy applies to weblogs or journals written on Microsoft's MSN Spaces service.

In June 2005 it was revealed that Chinese bloggers using MSN Spaces could see their entries being blocked if they mentioned banned words such as "freedom", "democracy" and "demonstration".

Brad Smith, Microsoft's senior lawyer, said it would now remove blog entries only if it gets a "legally binding notice" from the government of that nation. Entries will also be removed if they break the MSN Spaces terms of use.

He added that only people in the nation where the entry breaks local laws will be blocked from seeing the controversial comments. In all other nations access to the entry will be unrestricted.

Microsoft is currently implementing this nation-based blocking system in the infrastructure for its MSN Spaces service.

Users will also be told when their blog entries are being blocked.

Microsoft said that currently there were more than 35 million blogs on MSN Spaces which has more than 90 million unique users every month.

At the same time the software giant called for a wider debate on the best principles that those running blog services should adhere to.

Soon after the announcement Microsoft, Cisco, Yahoo and Google snubbed a Congressional session that aimed to find out more about how hi-tech US companies operate in China.

The meeting, set up by the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, follows many complaints about the way net firms have conducted themselves in China. Some critics charged that the firms put money before morals.

Most recently Google was criticised for agreeing to set up a censored version of its search system in China.

Although the firms ducked the chance to attend one Congressional meeting they could be issued with subpoenas to ensure they are present at another hearing on the issue that is scheduled for 15 February.

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