MSN’er adds to China discussion

Michael Connolly, a product unit manager on MSN Spaces, adds onto the China discussion with a post titled “Running a Service in China.” Here’s a quote from his post: “In China, there is a unique issue for our entire industry: there are certain aspects of speech in China that are regulated by the government.  We’ve made a choice to run a service in China, and to do that, we need to adhere to local regulations and laws. “

Comments

  1. That’s interesting, but this isn’t really about “in China”, but about Chinese-language content in the US.
    Rebecca MacKinnon wrote,
    “the blog remains inaccessible from the United States as well as from China.”

  2. That’s interesting, but this isn’t really about “in China”, but about Chinese-language content in the US.
    Rebecca MacKinnon wrote,
    “the blog remains inaccessible from the United States as well as from China.”

  3. “Local regulations and laws”? Not very clear where this refers to. One of the problems is that there are no regulations and laws on censorship but all depends on what local officials, and now also MSN Space employees, like or dislike.

  4. “Local regulations and laws”? Not very clear where this refers to. One of the problems is that there are no regulations and laws on censorship but all depends on what local officials, and now also MSN Space employees, like or dislike.

  5. This is all about being “in China”. It doesn’t matter where it is hosted or where it is accessible from. It’s about any company doing business in China. You must comply with local regulations.

  6. This is all about being “in China”. It doesn’t matter where it is hosted or where it is accessible from. It’s about any company doing business in China. You must comply with local regulations.

  7. [...] Climb downs and retractions By Dennis Howlett Yesterday was a ranting day with goowy and Robert Scoble in the firing line. Today, goowy has sorted out its mess while Scoble’s is drifting in the wind. That’s the speed at which things can happen in this sometimes scary world.David Tebbutt stuck it to goowy and they came back with an apology plus a change to the application so that contact databases don’t become a source of possible spamming. There’s one minor irritation in all this. Any damage has been done so a simple ’sorry’ doesn’t quite cut it for me. Indeed, the language of apology seems to be something that’s rapidly becoming part of the dialogue around this medium. I’m all in favour of correcting mistakes but it would help if people checked things out first.Scoble on the other hand has taken an entirely different tack and without an apology. Instead, he says:"Already there are plenty of people who took me to task for reacting like a blogger and not waiting until I had checked with all the parties. Truth is this thing was going supernova already (it was on Instapundit before I even knew about it)."That’s no excuse for not checking out the whole picture before lambasting his own company. I can’t think of any responsible company that would have allowed this kind of thing to happen. The curious thing about this is that prior to Robert’s gaff, David Tebbutt (again) had (prophetically IMHO) said:"Robert has acquired significant personal power. A ‘wrong’ word now can have a serious impact on his employer or on anyone else he sets his sights on."True. So today, Scoble references MSN product unit manager Mike Connelly who says:"In China, there is a unique issue for our entire industry: there are certain aspects of speech in China that are regulated by the government.  We’ve made a choice to run a service in China, and to do that, we need to adhere to local regulations and laws.  This is not unique to MSN Spaces; this is something that every company has to do if they operate in China. "This wasn’t an issue about China but MSFTs managing a service in the US that impacts a Chinese national and which could impact others. My take was more to do with the stupidity of not checking out a situation before going off on a rant. To summarise:Good was done when Goowy changed its software but damage was already doneIt’s good to see the thought police at MSFT PR have been hard at itAs with a number of what I consider important issues in and around MSFT, the MSN fiasco remains unresolved Those wavering or concerned about this medium can make of it what they will, though I suspect a number will simply use this example as a reason not to allow employees to do their thing on blogs. That would be a huge mistake and lost opportunity.I hope it hasn’t put off the kind of folk I know read this site and who want to get into the game. I’d still say ‘go for it.’ But I’d also say, make sure you understand what you’re letting yourself in for. goowy, Innovation, Marketing, MSN fiasco, robert scoble, Technical problems This entry is filed under Marketing, Technical problems, Innovation. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. Leave a Reply [...]

  8. What was the nature/content of the blog of the Chinese guy (who was censored) ? Does anyone know?
    Or is everyone just rushing to support coz thats how its done? :)

  9. What was the nature/content of the blog of the Chinese guy (who was censored) ? Does anyone know?
    Or is everyone just rushing to support coz thats how its done? :)

  10. “Or is everyone just rushing to support coz thats how its done?”

    What do you mean by this? If supporting someone’s ability to get their thoughts and ideas heard (no matter whether we like those ideas or not) is “how it’s done”, then I’m all for it. I don’t need to know the contents of this guy’s blog to decide that it shouldn’t be censored.

  11. “Or is everyone just rushing to support coz thats how its done?”

    What do you mean by this? If supporting someone’s ability to get their thoughts and ideas heard (no matter whether we like those ideas or not) is “how it’s done”, then I’m all for it. I don’t need to know the contents of this guy’s blog to decide that it shouldn’t be censored.

  12. “In China, there is a unique issue for our entire industry: there are certain aspects of family-planning in China that are regulated by the government, namely forced abortion and forced sterilizations. We’ve made a choice to run a family-planning service in China, and to do that, we need to adhere to local regulations and laws.”

  13. “In China, there is a unique issue for our entire industry: there are certain aspects of family-planning in China that are regulated by the government, namely forced abortion and forced sterilizations. We’ve made a choice to run a family-planning service in China, and to do that, we need to adhere to local regulations and laws.”

  14. anonymous, if the PRC gets to block Chinese-language content in the USA from Rebecca MacKinnon in the USA, does that mean that Fidel Castro can get MSN to take down US-based Spanish-language content?

    Please go back and read the MacKinnon piece again. The scary thing here isn’t that MSFT is enforcing PRC law inside the country where it has to, but that it’s making a US operation function as if it were in PRC jurisdiction.

  15. I don’t think the Castro example applies, as a) Bill is not getting enough money out of the Cuban market to justify this and b) He is probably forbidden by U.S. law to do business there anyway. But you are right that it looks like any tin pot dictatorship with enough economic clout can get Microsoft to do their censorship for them if they promise to buy enough copies of Vista… That’s capitalism for you, folks!

  16. anonymous, if the PRC gets to block Chinese-language content in the USA from Rebecca MacKinnon in the USA, does that mean that Fidel Castro can get MSN to take down US-based Spanish-language content?

    Please go back and read the MacKinnon piece again. The scary thing here isn’t that MSFT is enforcing PRC law inside the country where it has to, but that it’s making a US operation function as if it were in PRC jurisdiction.

  17. I don’t think the Castro example applies, as a) Bill is not getting enough money out of the Cuban market to justify this and b) He is probably forbidden by U.S. law to do business there anyway. But you are right that it looks like any tin pot dictatorship with enough economic clout can get Microsoft to do their censorship for them if they promise to buy enough copies of Vista… That’s capitalism for you, folks!

  18. Microsoft and China

    As the world’s most powerful software company, Microsoft has a tough job trying to develop overseas markets. Besides the obvious difficulties with internationalizing their products and setting up overseas marketing and distribution channels, they ofte…

  19. Michael Connolly is exactly right in this situation. Since Microsoft opted to do business in China, it is obligated to meet the legal guidelines of the country. To think otherwise is to engage in the worst ethnocentricity imaginable, and we’re not that perfect a nation that we can blithly say that everyone else is perforce wrong. Ptui on that.

  20. Michael Connolly is exactly right in this situation. Since Microsoft opted to do business in China, it is obligated to meet the legal guidelines of the country. To think otherwise is to engage in the worst ethnocentricity imaginable, and we’re not that perfect a nation that we can blithly say that everyone else is perforce wrong. Ptui on that.

  21. Taylor, you are pathetically ignorant.

    Connolly, you’re just lying.

    Your China sub is required to follow Chinese laws.

    I have seen no evidence that the MSN Spaces operation that shut down Michael Anti is a China sub.

    Fact is, you’re censoring content in the US to protect your access to the China market. Admit it.

  22. Taylor, you are pathetically ignorant.

    Connolly, you’re just lying.

    Your China sub is required to follow Chinese laws.

    I have seen no evidence that the MSN Spaces operation that shut down Michael Anti is a China sub.

    Fact is, you’re censoring content in the US to protect your access to the China market. Admit it.

  23. Dave, since Microsoft opted to do business in Saudi Arabia, it is obligated to make all women employees in the USA give up their parking passes. To think otherwise is to engage in the worst ethnocentricity imaginable.

    This isn’t about MSFT obeying Chinese law within Chinese jurisdiction. It’s about MSFT treating Chinese-language content in the USA as if it were under Chinese jurisdiction.

  24. Dave, since Microsoft opted to do business in Saudi Arabia, it is obligated to make all women employees in the USA give up their parking passes. To think otherwise is to engage in the worst ethnocentricity imaginable.

    This isn’t about MSFT obeying Chinese law within Chinese jurisdiction. It’s about MSFT treating Chinese-language content in the USA as if it were under Chinese jurisdiction.

  25. “we need to adhere to local regulations and laws” that statement makes me wonder what Microsoft’s position would have been had they been doing business in Germany in the 1930s.

    It simply comes down to the fact that Microsoft is placing money (“Money doesn’t talk; it swears” — Bob Dylan) above human rights.

  26. “we need to adhere to local regulations and laws” that statement makes me wonder what Microsoft’s position would have been had they been doing business in Germany in the 1930s.

    It simply comes down to the fact that Microsoft is placing money (“Money doesn’t talk; it swears” — Bob Dylan) above human rights.

  27. So, then, Microsoft, I’d expect this is consistent behavior, you’ve done it before, you’re likely to do it on behalf of other countries, and given the Patriot Act and NSA spying on US citizens, you’re doing it within the US on US citizens?

    I’m baffled and repulsed.

  28. So, then, Microsoft, I’d expect this is consistent behavior, you’ve done it before, you’re likely to do it on behalf of other countries, and given the Patriot Act and NSA spying on US citizens, you’re doing it within the US on US citizens?

    I’m baffled and repulsed.

  29. I find it interesting that a company that stonewalled the US and state governments for years, saying that it was technically infeasible to remove a web browser from its OS distribution, seems to find no way to prevent blogs from being removed from MSN Spaces.

  30. I find it interesting that a company that stonewalled the US and state governments for years, saying that it was technically infeasible to remove a web browser from its OS distribution, seems to find no way to prevent blogs from being removed from MSN Spaces.

  31. Scoble,
    It’s a good start but there are some good questions above as well. Is it servers in China that have the web pages pulled, customers that sign up from china, or all Chineese language blogs that are subject to this kind of restriction.
    The differences between the three scenarios are significant.

    Servers in China – I understand and it makes sense
    Subscribers from China – Kinda shaky but I can also understand – to some extent.
    Chineese language blogs – That I would have serious problems with.

    I could see justification for not serving US Based Chineese blogs to Chineese addresses as a condition of business – but not the outright removal of the blog.

  32. Scoble,
    It’s a good start but there are some good questions above as well. Is it servers in China that have the web pages pulled, customers that sign up from china, or all Chineese language blogs that are subject to this kind of restriction.
    The differences between the three scenarios are significant.

    Servers in China – I understand and it makes sense
    Subscribers from China – Kinda shaky but I can also understand – to some extent.
    Chineese language blogs – That I would have serious problems with.

    I could see justification for not serving US Based Chineese blogs to Chineese addresses as a condition of business – but not the outright removal of the blog.

  33. Oh the money issue is the only reason MS cares. If China wasn’t China, and was instead, say, Papua New Guinea, they’d tell the government to pound sand.

    But with China’s economic power, when China says “jump”, MS says “How High”.

    So does every other company. That’s just the way it is.

  34. Oh the money issue is the only reason MS cares. If China wasn’t China, and was instead, say, Papua New Guinea, they’d tell the government to pound sand.

    But with China’s economic power, when China says “jump”, MS says “How High”.

    So does every other company. That’s just the way it is.

  35. Blogero chino censurado por MSN Spaces

    Robert Scoble ha escrito un post muy, muy serio sobre la censura que al parecer ha sufrido un blogero chino por parte de MSN. Según un artículo de la periodista Rebecca MacKinnon en su blog, MSN Spaces cerró el popular blog de Zhao Jing, tambien con…

  36. Someone should set up a new MSN space and act as a proxy for the guy (i.e. have him send a blog record to someone outside China which publishes it on the blog).

    As far as I can read from the terms, you then wouldn’t be acting in violation of the terms which state that your not allowed to publish information that violate local or national laws in _your_ area.

    (As long as you indicate it’s not written by yourself)
    :-)

  37. Someone should set up a new MSN space and act as a proxy for the guy (i.e. have him send a blog record to someone outside China which publishes it on the blog).

    As far as I can read from the terms, you then wouldn’t be acting in violation of the terms which state that your not allowed to publish information that violate local or national laws in _your_ area.

    (As long as you indicate it’s not written by yourself)
    :-)

  38. “Or is everyone just rushing to support coz thats how its done?”

    Bob: “What do you mean by this? If supporting someone’s ability to get their thoughts and ideas heard (no matter whether we like those ideas or not) is “how it’s done”, then I’m all for it. I don’t need to know the contents of this guy’s blog to decide that it shouldn’t be censored. ”

    I wanted to know the cause for MSN’s censorship. Aren’t we speculating a lot of things. I’d like to see facts before…
    The reason I asked for the content, was to better understand the reason for MSN’s censorship.

    Allowing his blogs to read in the US would still be a violation of the law (if it isn’t they’ll make it into one).
    Did MSN deny the censorship?
    Does their contract specify that they won’t censor?

    Or is everyone just rushing to support coz thats how its done?

  39. “Or is everyone just rushing to support coz thats how its done?”

    Bob: “What do you mean by this? If supporting someone’s ability to get their thoughts and ideas heard (no matter whether we like those ideas or not) is “how it’s done”, then I’m all for it. I don’t need to know the contents of this guy’s blog to decide that it shouldn’t be censored. ”

    I wanted to know the cause for MSN’s censorship. Aren’t we speculating a lot of things. I’d like to see facts before…
    The reason I asked for the content, was to better understand the reason for MSN’s censorship.

    Allowing his blogs to read in the US would still be a violation of the law (if it isn’t they’ll make it into one).
    Did MSN deny the censorship?
    Does their contract specify that they won’t censor?

    Or is everyone just rushing to support coz thats how its done?

  40. Leah, as far as I understand it it was servers run over in China by our Chinese employees. The American guys I know over in MSN Spaces didn’t even know about this decision (including the folks who run the team). I still haven’t heard the details. They promise to get back to me on that, though.

  41. Leah, as far as I understand it it was servers run over in China by our Chinese employees. The American guys I know over in MSN Spaces didn’t even know about this decision (including the folks who run the team). I still haven’t heard the details. They promise to get back to me on that, though.

  42. “Leah, as far as I understand it it was servers run over in China by our Chinese employees.”

    Ah… so why not just help him set up an MSN Spaces account based on a US server?

    Then you wouldn’t need to follow Chinese law and censor him, right?

  43. “Leah, as far as I understand it it was servers run over in China by our Chinese employees.”

    Ah… so why not just help him set up an MSN Spaces account based on a US server?

    Then you wouldn’t need to follow Chinese law and censor him, right?

  44. I’m sorry that “we are just following the law” argument is nonsense.

    Michael Anti’s blog did not violate any Chinese law nor is there any law or regulation which compels MSN to take down his blog. You can prove me wrong by quoting which law or regulation compelled MSN to remove the blog.

    People in the Chinese blogging community are very knowledgable about what the rules are and what they can get away with and what they can’t.

    What has everyone upset is that as far as anyone is aware of, Michael Anti did not violate any rule imposed by the Chinese goverment yet his blog got taken down. He is currently still in China, blogging quite openly on other sites.

  45. I’m sorry that “we are just following the law” argument is nonsense.

    Michael Anti’s blog did not violate any Chinese law nor is there any law or regulation which compels MSN to take down his blog. You can prove me wrong by quoting which law or regulation compelled MSN to remove the blog.

    People in the Chinese blogging community are very knowledgable about what the rules are and what they can get away with and what they can’t.

    What has everyone upset is that as far as anyone is aware of, Michael Anti did not violate any rule imposed by the Chinese goverment yet his blog got taken down. He is currently still in China, blogging quite openly on other sites.

  46. What law would be too much for Microsoft to bear? What law would be too much for you, Scoble, to personally bear being affiliated with Microsoft if they enforced? I think you should really think about these questions.

  47. What law would be too much for Microsoft to bear? What law would be too much for you, Scoble, to personally bear being affiliated with Microsoft if they enforced? I think you should really think about these questions.

  48. FYI. Michael Anti has moved to another site which is blocked by the Chinese firewall. A fairly large number of Chinese bloggers are now reproducing his blogs verbatim on MSN spaces.

    Do you now plan to shut them all down?

  49. FYI. Michael Anti has moved to another site which is blocked by the Chinese firewall. A fairly large number of Chinese bloggers are now reproducing his blogs verbatim on MSN spaces.

    Do you now plan to shut them all down?

  50. Unlike many, I have not had a beef with Microsoft until this moment. Their aggression is good business. The Justice Department went after a monopoly that had not yet formed (though I think it would have eventually formed). But this conformity to China’s censorship policy has incredible implications concerning the element of trust – and now a touch of fear. I have finally become convinced that Microsoft is not a benign power but one that sucks up to money and power because that is where its priorities are.

  51. Unlike many, I have not had a beef with Microsoft until this moment. Their aggression is good business. The Justice Department went after a monopoly that had not yet formed (though I think it would have eventually formed). But this conformity to China’s censorship policy has incredible implications concerning the element of trust – and now a touch of fear. I have finally become convinced that Microsoft is not a benign power but one that sucks up to money and power because that is where its priorities are.

  52. “Certain aspects of speech” — the fact that he used this phrase reeks of bullshit used to obfuscate the main point. Why not spell out what those aspects of speech are? Oh, I know: it would sound really awful if he did.

  53. “Certain aspects of speech” — the fact that he used this phrase reeks of bullshit used to obfuscate the main point. Why not spell out what those aspects of speech are? Oh, I know: it would sound really awful if he did.

  54. [...] BEJING – Microsoft is being criticized by international free speech advocates for its decision this week to censor a prominent Chinese blogger. This is the latest in a number recent cases of US-based technology firms helping the Chinese government suppress speech that is critical of government actions. The MSN Spaces-hosted weblog of Beijing media researcher Zhao Jing, who writes under the pen name ‘Michael Anti,’ was shut down after he published articles critical of management changes at the Beijing News. The three posts were censored for viewers inside China last week, and the blog was shut down completely on December 31, including Zhao’s access to all Weblog content, according to Zhao in an XFN-Asia report. China continues its aggressive campaign to closely regulate subversive speech, and there have been several media reports of related actions in recent months. Microsoft defends its current actions by stating that its corporate policy is to comply with the local laws of countries in which it operates. Last year Yahoo! was widely criticized for its decision to turn over the e-mail records of journalist Shi Tao to Chinese police after he circulated a government order to suppress media commemorations of the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident on its 15th anniversary. Shi was sentenced in 2005 to a 10 year jail term, and Yahoo!’s disclosure was a key piece of evidence in the case against him. Cisco and other networking firms have been working with the Chinese government to implement what has become known as the ‘Great Firewall of China.’ Google has been accused of censoring Chinese content on its Chinese search engine, and Atlanta-based Verso Technologies said in a November 2005 release that it has begun ‘a paid trial of Verso’s NetSpective M-Class Solution to filter Skype and other peer to peer (P2P) communications with a Tier-One carrier based in China.’ Robert Scoble, a Microsoft employee and its ‘resident blogger,’ criticized related actions (see ZDNet piece) in media interviews and moderates a discussion on the subject here. (Interesting aside – Scoble’s blog is hosted on open source platform WordPress, a demonstration of the significant amount of ‘independence’ Microsoft actually tolerates.) [...]

  55. No BILL of Rights, hey?

    This is life under dominion.
    The merging Venn diagram of “communist” China and our Command-and-Control corporate structures feels inevitbale as they both are Statist enterprises to their very genetic core. This touches deep nerves running through all of us – as evident by these comment threads.

    Our founding fathers were explicitly anti-corporate from the Boston Tea Party to laying out how corporations should never live longer than a human being and were actually meant to be dissolved like the figments they are lest heady power blur frail human vision. They’d just suffered under chubby King George and his no-bid chummy contracts to bleed the colonies {arguably economic slaves} pallid and the Framers and Founders were in no mood to allow this to happen again.

    So, hey, Bill, MSofties, if I take over a country and buy enough copies of Longhorn you’ll help my henchman crack down? I suppose if most of you look the other way while a few of you get hands dirty it’s all OK once the stock-options ripen – right?

    WRONG – You don’t have to comply with local laws if you refuse to do business with local strongmen… but it all depends on how close one keeps billfold-to-soul, I suppose.

    Money is not the measure of all things and waving opportunities in front of me with tempting deals or job offers doesn’t buy my respect, nor silence.

  56. No BILL of Rights, hey?

    This is life under dominion.
    The merging Venn diagram of “communist” China and our Command-and-Control corporate structures feels inevitbale as they both are Statist enterprises to their very genetic core. This touches deep nerves running through all of us – as evident by these comment threads.

    Our founding fathers were explicitly anti-corporate from the Boston Tea Party to laying out how corporations should never live longer than a human being and were actually meant to be dissolved like the figments they are lest heady power blur frail human vision. They’d just suffered under chubby King George and his no-bid chummy contracts to bleed the colonies {arguably economic slaves} pallid and the Framers and Founders were in no mood to allow this to happen again.

    So, hey, Bill, MSofties, if I take over a country and buy enough copies of Longhorn you’ll help my henchman crack down? I suppose if most of you look the other way while a few of you get hands dirty it’s all OK once the stock-options ripen – right?

    WRONG – You don’t have to comply with local laws if you refuse to do business with local strongmen… but it all depends on how close one keeps billfold-to-soul, I suppose.

    Money is not the measure of all things and waving opportunities in front of me with tempting deals or job offers doesn’t buy my respect, nor silence.

  57. Bill, I agree companies exist to make money, what I am saddened by though is individuals who lack the courage to stand up and reign that drive in. Humans can do things other than make money, and when you find yourself curtailing other’s rights in an effort to make money yourself it is time for some reflection.

  58. Bill, I agree companies exist to make money, what I am saddened by though is individuals who lack the courage to stand up and reign that drive in. Humans can do things other than make money, and when you find yourself curtailing other’s rights in an effort to make money yourself it is time for some reflection.

  59. “But with China’s economic power, when China says “jump”, MS says “How High”.

    So does every other company. That’s just the way it is.”

    But we can change “the way it is”. If enough American consumers protest (boycott?), we can make these decisions too costly for Microsoft, Yahoo and even Google. Now, the easy way out for companies is to favor the Chinese Communist Party and other repressive regimes. But if people that are against censorship of ideas such as democracy and independence would adjust their buying decisions accordingly, the Chinese Communist Party would find fewer US companies willing to do everything they could to help in the repression.

  60. “But with China’s economic power, when China says “jump”, MS says “How High”.

    So does every other company. That’s just the way it is.”

    But we can change “the way it is”. If enough American consumers protest (boycott?), we can make these decisions too costly for Microsoft, Yahoo and even Google. Now, the easy way out for companies is to favor the Chinese Communist Party and other repressive regimes. But if people that are against censorship of ideas such as democracy and independence would adjust their buying decisions accordingly, the Chinese Communist Party would find fewer US companies willing to do everything they could to help in the repression.