A senior Microsoft manager has defended the decision to remove the blog of a Chinese journalist from the company's MSN Spaces site, claiming that content which breaks national laws must be taken down.
Michael Connolly, a product unit manager on MSN Spaces, posted an entry on his personal blog site on Thursday claiming that Microsoft faces a lot of "complicated issues" in China, but insisted that the organisation has not become more aggressive in the way it moderates its user's content.
"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," Connolly said.
The blog in question, written by Zhao Jing, also known as Michael Anti, was removed from MSN servers on New Year's Eve, according to a posting earlier this week by investigative journalist and former CNN reporter Rebecca Mackinnon.
Responding to Microsoft's official comment on the issue and the unofficial comments from Microsoft employee blogs, Mackinnon claimed that the issue goes beyond China.
"The behaviour of companies like Microsoft, Yahoo and others — and their eager willingness to comply with Chinese government demands — shows a fundamental lack of respect for users and our fundamental human rights," she said. "Microsoft, Yahoo and others are helping to institutionalise and legitimise the integration of censorship into the global IT business model."
Another Microsoft blogger, Alfred Thompson, who works in the company's academic relations department, posted an entry on his personal site on Thursday asking for more information on the reasons behind the decision to remove Anti's blog.
"Openness and more information is the best answer when there is a lack of good information. Someone (other than me) has to make some tough decision around all this. They have more information and more to think about than I do," Thompson stated.
But Thompson questioned the logic of Microsoft pulling out of China purely over the free-speech issue claiming the only way to facilitate change is from within.
"There are times when I think we should all stop doing business with China until they become a democracy. And then I think about how well that has worked with Cuba," he said. "Occasionally a blogger is forced to move hosting services and that is wrong and it is a shame on us all. But is it enough to paint a company as an evil servant of tyranny and a threat to human rights? Give me a break."
Both Thompson and Connolly said that the opinions contained in their blogs are their own and do not reflect the official views of Microsoft. On Wednesday, the company said that "local laws and practices require consideration of unique elements".