Microsoft's 'freedom and democracy' row in China

What would the President say about MSN's Shanghai surprise?

Microsoft may have banned the words 'democracy' and 'freedom' from the Chinese version of its MSN website.

According to the FT, the MSN website is blocking anti-communist phrases by sending an error message to anyone using the words, in a bid to avoid upsetting the Chinese government.

The message is reported to say: "This item contains forbidden speech. Please delete the forbidden speech from this item." The words for 'demonstration', 'democratic movement' and 'Taiwan independence' are also said to be banned.

Microsoft has dodged the question of censorship, issuing an emailed statement saying: "The content posted on member spaces is the responsibility of individuals who are required to abide by MSN's Code of Conduct which can be viewed at MSN abides by the laws and regulations of each country in which it operates."

Only the main part of the website is enforcing the ban and individualised MSN Spaces are not said be affected.

The drama is the latest in a spate of moves by the Chinese government to censor certain areas of the internet. Chinese officials are currently trying make people register websites with the state by July or risk being shut down.

Microsoft partnered with a state-owned company, the Shanghai Alliance Investment, last month to create the Chinese arm of MSN.