Users of Microsoft's new China-based Internet portal have been blocked from using the words "democracy", "freedom" and "human rights" in an apparent move by the US software giant to appease Beijing.
Other words that could not be used on Microsoft's free online blog service
MSN Spaces include "Taiwan independence" and "demonstration".
Bloggers who enter such words or other politically charged or pornographic
content are prompted with a message that reads: "This item should not contain
forbidden speech such as profanity. Please enter a different word for this
Officials at Microsoft's Beijing offices refused to comment.
Internet sites in China are strongly urged to abide by a code of conduct and
self-censor any information that could be viewed by the government as
politically sensitive, pornographic or illegal.
For many Chinese websites, such content also includes news stories that the
government considers unfavorable or does not want published.
New regulations issued in March now require that all China-based websites be
formally registered with the government by the end of June or be shut down by
Microsoft formed its portal joint venture with China's state-funded Shanghai
Alliance Investment Ltd (SAIL) last month to launch the MSN China web portal.
Microsoft is not the only international tech company to comply with China's
stringent Internet rules.
Yahoo! and Google -- the two most popular Internet search engines -- have
already been criticized for cooperating with the Chinese government to censor
The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) earlier said it "deplores the
irresponsible policies of United States Internet firms Yahoo! and Google in
bowing directly and indirectly to Chinese government demands for censorship".
It has called on the United States to apply the principles of its Global
Internet Freedom Act on its private sector's activities in "some of the
world's most repressive regimes".
The Global Internet Freedom Act, passed by the US House of Representatives in
July 2003, aims to combat online censorship imposed by governments around the
In their efforts to conquer the Chinese market, Yahoo! and Google are "making
compromises that directly threaten freedom of expression," RSF has said.