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Microsoft blog service sparks censorship dodging

You can't register a blog with MSN Spaces if it contains words Microsoft considers rude. Or can you?
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Written by Graeme Wearden on
MSN Spaces, Microsoft's new blogging service, has sparked a new game -- trying to circumvent its censorship controls.

Boing Boing, a popular blog, reported on Friday morning that MSN Spaces is rejecting certain blog titles or URLs because they contain words that Microsoft has deemed inappropriate.

However, like so many censorship tools down the ages, Microsoft's is proving less than perfect.

BoingBoing found that all of the most obvious and emotive profanities -- think words beginning with "f" and "c" for starters -- fell foul of Microsoft's electronic sentries.

But the fun started when blogs with potentially tricky titles such as "tits for tats" and "butt sex is awesome" cleared Microsoft's censorship filters. It intensified when attempts such as "Pornography and The Law", or indeed any featuring the title of Vladimir Nabokov's most famous work, come a cropper.

Getting an amusingly named blog past the MSN Spaces controls may be fun, but it also illustrates the tensions between the traditionally free and open world of blogging, and the more corporate approach of a software giant like Microsoft.

"If you can't speak freely on a blog, what's the point of having one?" pointed out Boing Boing.

These tensions are also apparent in Microsoft's approach to blog content. Unlike rival services such as Blogger, MSN Spaces forces new users to grant Microsoft permission to "use, copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, reproduce, edit, modify, translate and reformat" their blog postings.

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