June 13, 2005

Microsoft Bans “Democracy”

If you’re thinking about starting your own blog, I suggest you don’t use MSN Spaces. (Hat tip: Roger L. Simon.)

Microsoft's new Chinese internet portal has banned the words “democracy” and “freedom” from parts of its website in an apparent effort to avoid offending Beijing's political censors.

Users of the joint-venture portal, formally launched last month, have been blocked from using a range of potentially sensitive words to label personal websites they create using its free online blog service, MSN Spaces.

Attempts to input words in Chinese such as “democracy” prompted an error message from the site: “This item contains forbidden speech. Please delete the forbidden speech from this item.” Other phrases banned included the Chinese for “demonstration”, “democratic movement” and “Taiwan independence.
This isn’t the first time Microsoft sold out to the Beijing regime.

Several years ago, when I worked for Intel as a technical writer, I bought Microsoft’s Manual of Style for tech writers. (It was Intel’s company-wide standard and probably still is.) The book’s purpose is to make sure everyone uses, spells, punctuates, and capitalizes terms like “Web site,” “Internet,” “cd-rom,” and so on, the same way.

While flipping through the book I noticed Taiwan, of all things, had its own entry. Taiwan, according to Microsoft…wait for it… belongs to China. Totalitarian propaganda has actually made its way into a style guide for user manual and Help file writers.

There’s only one reason Microsoft would do this sort of thing: money. They want their products sold in China without hassle from the regime. So the way to make them stop collaborating with oppressive regimes is to dent in their profits in this country. Just boycott MSN Spaces. And tell Microsoft why.

Oh, and here's a free hint to Chinese MSN Spaces users: It's spelled “d3m0cr@cy.”

Posted by Michael J. Totten at June 13, 2005 9:02 AM
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