MacKinnon Bombshell: Microsoft, not the CCP, took down Anti’s Blog

What an amazing post. Go right now and read the whole thing. So much incriminating evidence of Microsoft’s sucking up to the censors!

Microsoft’s MSN Spaces continues to censor its Chinese language blogs, and has become more aggressive and thorough at censorship since I first checked out MSN’s censorship system last summer. On New Years Eve, MSN Spaces took down the popular blog written by Zhao Jing, aka Michael Anti. Now all you get when you attempt to visit his blog at: is the error message pictured above. (You can see the Google cache of his blog up until Dec.22nd here.)

Note, his blog was TAKEN DOWN by MSN people. Not blocked by the Chinese government.

There’s a lot more to this story (and I mean a lot), and once again ESWN does a great service translating relevant Chinese articles.

Prediction: This is going to ignite a firestorm of Microsoft denunciations from the left and the right in America. If MacKinnon’s sleuthing is on-target, they’re in deep shit. Thanks Rebecca. Thanks Roland. As I said, go there now.

Update: Evil right-wing blogger La Shawn Barber appears to be one of the first out of the gate to savage Bill Gates. Prepare for the domino effect.

Update II: Don’t miss all the comments and trackbacks to Rebecca’s post. Microsoft ueber-blogger Scoble is mad as hell, and offering Anti a free space to blog to his heart’s content (though Rebecca says in an update that he’s already back online using another service). He writes:

Why is this so important to me? Well, you ignore the voices of individual people at your peril. And, I’ve been raised by people who taught me the value of standing up for the little guy. My mom grew up in Germany. Her mom stood up to the Nazis (and got a lot of scorn from family and friends for doing so).

I do believe in a slippery slope. If they come after you today, maybe they’ll come after me tomorrow. Gotta stop this kind of stuff while we’re still talking about you.

Oh, and to: Zhao Jing, aka Michael Anti I’d like to offer you a guest blog here on my blog. I won’t censor you and you can write whatever you’d like.

Guys over at MSN: sorry, I don’t agree with your being used as a state-run thug.

The comments to Scoble’s post are bountiful and seething. If anything propels China’s censorship into the limelight it’ll be this story. It’s far more damning than last year’s Yahoo scandal, where Yahoo appeared to have little or no choice. Here, it appears MS’s cooperation was zealous and total.

The Discussion: 29 Comments

What’s a favor or two between evil empires, right?

January 3, 2006 @ 7:07 pm | Comment

I’m glad to see that Scoble is on the case.

As far as I can see, this is censorship of any blog written by any person anywhere in the world in Chinese (with the blog hosting in the US).

I wonder whether they also censor Traditional Chinese (i.e. HK / Taiwan) blogs …

January 3, 2006 @ 7:19 pm | Comment

Microsoft silences Chinese Blogger

Microsoft moves forward to shutdown “free speech” in China without pressure from the Chinese government….

January 3, 2006 @ 7:20 pm | Comment

this is the reason why i should study eng.

those BIG companies are the accomplice to the CCP.

for market share? for profit? maybe they will get some lessons from PEOPLE.

January 3, 2006 @ 8:07 pm | Comment

Microsoft accused of censoring blogs in China

Rebecca MacKinnon has a long posting on Microsoft’s censorship of blogs in China. Amongst a number of accusations, she claims that recent actions prove that Microsoft itself – and not the Chinese government – is censoring Chinese blogs. If she’s righ…

January 3, 2006 @ 8:37 pm | Comment

I think we’ve been through this before: Microsoft is given a choice of operating constricted, or not operating at all in China. So they choose to operate constricted. Blaming Microsoft for following the rules of their host country, just because those rules don’t jive with your personal sense of how American companies should operate in an ideal world, is very strange.

January 3, 2006 @ 11:01 pm | Comment

MS didn’t just obey the rules, they went above and beyond. Have you read MacKinnon’s post. Did you read MS executive Scoble? Even he says the company is at fault in this case. This is going ot be a lot harder for MS to wiggle out of; Yahoo could point to rules it had no choice to follow. MS won’t have such an easy out.

January 4, 2006 @ 12:37 am | Comment

Blah blah blah, following the rules of the host country… blah blah blah.
Thanks for enlightening us.
Could anyone tell me “the rule”? Where is it written?
Because according to my reading of the Constitution here (obviously the least applied document in history), there should be fr33d0m of speech, shouldn’t there?
In my opinion, it is not “strange” that people would be outraged by this, but rather that there are supposedly “unwritten rules” governing speech: that is, in fact, what’s strange.

January 4, 2006 @ 1:06 am | Comment

Yes, I read all your links, but it isn’t Microsoft’s job to rage against the machine, it’s Microsoft’s job to create value for shareholders. By US law, Microsoft could get into trouble if it chose to ignore shareholders and go on a crusade that resulted in lower profits.

When you’re dealing with a thuggish government, better to give that government and its sensitivities a wide berth to avoid other problems related to more important things, like your primary mission of creating shareholder value.

Microsoft chose to demonstrate to the Chinese government that it can be trusted, and even if it erred on the side of safety, it’s still Microsoft’s business.

January 4, 2006 @ 1:26 am | Comment

I really believe if it were that simple Scoble and MacKinnon would be going a lot easier on Microsoft.

Microsoft chose to demonstrate to the Chinese government that it can be trusted, and even if it erred on the side of safety, it’s still Microsoft’s business.

True enough. But it’s also the business of their customers, stockholders, employees, industry watchers and bloggers/journalists. My predicition is we’re going to watch Microsoft get ripped to pieces. It’s already started. You can say they acted within their rights. But I say that from a communications perspective, it was a disastrous decision that will end up costing the company mightily.

January 4, 2006 @ 1:36 am | Comment

boo – ignoring the fact that you seem to think that ethics have no place in the corporate marketplace, there are serious issues with this instance of censorship which are new:

MSN Spaces is a US based-service. It is offered in a wide variety of languages, and targetted at a lot of countries, China in particular. But I don’t believe the fact that Michael Anti set the language to Chinese and posted in Chinese affects the fact that it is US-based. If an American citizen living and posting in the US posted equivalent articles in Chinese, it’s reasonable to assume that it would be shut down in exactly the same way as Anti’s site.

So, do you feel comfortable that Microsoft is willing to censor Americans in America due to pressure from the CCP? It seems we’re very close to that scenario.

January 4, 2006 @ 1:44 am | Comment

I agree MS will be ripped to pieces over this. Anyway, regarding Kevin’s question about the Rules, here is a quote from the English MSN Spaces rules page:

Microsoft reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to review and remove user-created services and content at will and without notice, and delete postings or ban participants that are deemed objectionable.

Lots more there, with the clear message (to me at least) that they are not interested in hosting anything that could ever have even the remote chance of become controversial.

Reading these rules, logging on to MSN Spaces (and clicking through that you agree to the rules), and then posting political content in a country where it’s difficult to do so at the best of times, I think we protest too much, especially on a blog where the commenters regularly write words like “fr33d0m.”

January 4, 2006 @ 1:48 am | Comment

David, I’m not “comfortable” about the ethics, I’m just stating US corporate law.

So, do you feel comfortable that Microsoft is willing to censor Americans in America due to pressure from the CCP? It seems we’re very close to that scenario.

They’re welcome to do so. And you, of course, are welcome to use a different content service if that situation ever comes about.

January 4, 2006 @ 1:50 am | Comment

Internet censorship for commercial reasons…in the USA

I really want to discuss Michael Anti, MSN and Beijing News, but that will take more time than I have…

January 4, 2006 @ 3:04 am | Comment

Spaces scandal gaining momentum

Forbes has weighed in on the growing scandal regarding censorship on Microsoft’s blog site MSN Spaces.
It’s been interesting to watch the story swell over the last day or so, hitting many of the blogs in my RSS reader in succession, and n…

January 4, 2006 @ 8:46 am | Comment


As someone who worked for a major multi-national, I can tell you that companies can’t just use the “we were only obeying the laws of the country” bull. First of all, as has been pointed out several times, MSN pre-empted any complaints from Beijing. They are basically turning themselves into a part of the CCP censorship machine by trying to show loyalty to the old men.

But even if you “obey the law”, you have to suffer the consequences. Bad publicity hits share prices and investor confidence. Microsoft’s reputation has been absolutely trashed in the last few years. And now companies that make products like Openoffice are fast making ground. MS panicked at the release of the “opendoc” format because it would mean Microsoft Office would become un-necessary. They tried to throw lots of insane conspiracy-type allegations that it was unsafe, would increase the spread of viruses, etc. And this time the state government in question told them to f-off. A US (albeit state) government telling MS to shove it? As Po the telltubby would say – “Eh-oh!”

Too many people think that corporate activity should be about making money and making money only. Although that is the bottom line, HOW you make money is also important. When one of our competitors was found riffling through our garbage bins, suffice to say the media coverage hurt them in the wallet. Equally if MS is believed to be making profit through sensoring people when they don’t even have to, people will look for alternatives. And when there are FREE alternatives, that is a very big risk.

Time for MS to make a choice. It can try to act in a more responsible way, or it can leave itself open to disgruntled customers trying a free/v. cheap substitute and then liking it so much that they never switch back.

January 4, 2006 @ 10:45 am | Comment

Internet Censorship in China

Bloggers all over the world are up in arms over Microsoft’s alleged censorship of a popular Chinese language blog on their free and widely used MSN spaces website builder. Some blogs in China get blocked for mentioning certain highly specific keywords …

January 4, 2006 @ 11:59 am | Comment

Internet Censorship in China

Bloggers all over the world are up in arms over Microsoft’s alleged censorship of a popular Chinese language blog on their free and widely used MSN spaces website builder. Some blogs in China get blocked for mentioning certain highly specific keywords …

January 4, 2006 @ 11:59 am | Comment

Suspending Anti’s account was a way for Microsoft to ensure that the CCP didn’t cut off access to MSN Spaces entirely. In whose benefit would that have be? Local blog services even more under the nail of Beijing?

And realize that even if this were base, if preemptive toadying to the CCP, it scores Microsoft brownie points, and perhaps aid in protecting its intellectual property in China.

Raj, this is quite different from your competitor’s dumpster diving: Let’s face it, the CCP is going to chase after and squash all the dissention it can—whether hosted by individuals or by corporations. Microsoft could have risked provoking a sovereign power, an emerging Great Power at that, and losing its largest potential market. Or it could risk agitating small segments of its mature markets. As distasteful as it is, I think they made the better choice.

As for ethics mentioned earlier in the comments… seeing as how 1) this served the long term interests of the firm (as presumably understood by the managers); and 2) was in accordance with the declared—and accepted—terms of service, I can’t see any ethical problem.

January 4, 2006 @ 1:51 pm | Comment


I was trying to give an example of how activities that are sometimes regarded as being “standard practice” (industrial espionage in this case) can still get companies in trouble with their consumers. The fallout was almost completely in lost sales, not the result of legal action.

January 4, 2006 @ 6:04 pm | Comment

This is a free service, paid for by Microsoft and nobody else, and Microsoft has the right to toss anyone for any reason at any time without having to explain it to anyone. And they state so very explicitly on their rules page.

Do you want to start making the case that Richard TPD has the obligation to host Madge in the comments section? It’s the same thing.

Companies do this all the time, everywhere, with paid and free services. Paypal won’t cooperate with you if you’re in a business they don’t like, for example, even if it’s legal. This may make bad PR, but it isn’t “censorship.”

It’s really the height of arrogance to go around demanding that Microsoft serve customers who try to subvert the intent of their services by turning them into political sounding boards, just because those customers have politics with which you sympathize.

January 4, 2006 @ 6:06 pm | Comment

Sorry Boo, but I don’t buy it. To zealously delete an entire blog because it might offend the CCP goes totally against the spirit of the Internet, good business practices and accepted ethics. Sure, they do have the right, legally. But it makes them look absolutely terrible and will ultimately be very bad for business. No one is saying they can’t do it. What I’m saying (along with Danwei, MacKinnon, Scoble and many others) is that it’s totaly wrong. The analogy to MAJ’s comments on my blog rings hollow. Your blog is your blog, and you decide what content is on it. As long as it’s not breaking laws (e.g., no child p0rn or illegal drug dealing), my host or blog provider leaves it alone. It’s particulalry galling that Microsoft went out of its way to second-guess the CCP and show just how eager they were to not only comply but over-comply. All they had to do was wait until the CCP asked them to take it down; then they’d be able to hide behind a reasonable excuse. in this case, there appears to be no excuse at all, which is why the media will soon have a feeding frenzy with this. Microsoft screwed up badly, whether they were within their rights or not.

January 4, 2006 @ 6:48 pm | Comment

Anyone know what Time Magazine’s take is on the Microsoft censorship? After all, Bill’s one of the People of the Year!

January 4, 2006 @ 11:17 pm | Comment

Boo, you seem to be confusing several issues. A blog is for web logging. People should be able to write whatever the heck they want. Whether it be about kittens, killing kittens, Chinese commies, or anything that annoys them. To say that bloggers should not be allowed political content, is not different than saying you can’t write emails on certain content. Why don’ we take it to the next level and say you can’t use your IP phone for certain topics? Heck, let’s just rule out any business trips that have goals that might offend the Republican or Democratic party. I don’t expect you to understand if you grew up in a totalitarian country.

You can say from an incentive standpoint most companies like MSFT will take money and market share over ethics.

This does not mean the companies shouldn’t take shit from people who like free speech.
Hopefully companies in the future will feel the need to balance this as well. Otherwise, if all the large companies are in the world get in bed with the CCP, this whole world will be a darker place.

January 5, 2006 @ 1:48 pm | Comment

Microsoft Spaces is provided as a commercial service to the public, and it is not paid by tax payer’s money. And Microsoft can do anything it wants to it, whether it be delete a post, edit a post, or shut down an account. It can shut down the entire MSN Spaces service tomorrow if it wants. And those things are written in its “Terms of Services”, and you clicked “I accept” when you signed up for an account. In this case, you didn’t like when they took down Anti’s blog, cause his political views agree with yours. What if MSN Spaces Germany took down a blog that sings praise for Nazis (not explictly advocating violence, but merely political opinion pieces singing praises for Nazi’s) and it was took down by MSN Spaces Germany. I think most people would applaud that. What if MSN Spaces in the US took down a blog that sings praises of Osama Bin Laden and Iraqi Suicide Bombers, and post pictures of WTC towers collapsing and American soldiers being blown with comedic music and is attracting tens of thousands of hits? Do you think the mainstream American society would protest if MSN Spaces took that blog down?

Back to Anti’s case, Of course, you have every right to dislike MSN Spaces for that, and you may even start a little boycott of MSN Spaces among your friends. But there won’t be any real effects outside of your friends and MSN executives know that, that’s why they did what they did. Unless you can organize a 10,000 signatures and write to mainstream American media like MSNBC to expose this “Scandal”. Wait, MSNBC is funded partly by Microsoft, haha.

January 5, 2006 @ 2:48 pm | Comment


So what you’re saying is that once you’ve posted something, the provider (owner) of the forum and property being used to disseminate what you’ve posted has no right to remove that posting, even if he has reserved that right in your initial agreement? Ultimately this means that the right to self-expression (or non-expression) of one party trumps that of another.

The relevant example would be a guest, at first welcome, but who then acts in ways that might attract the police. You toss him out, regardless of the legality of what he’s doing.

In stronger terms, and responding also to Ed’s opening remarks: yes, you should be able to say whatever you wish, but should you really be able to force someone else (even Microsoft) to put their name to what you say?

January 5, 2006 @ 2:49 pm | Comment

I applaud Microsoft’s action. Finally someone to stand up to those pig-headed Western moralists!!!

Let’s hang the capitalists with their own rope!!!

(by the way, that was sarcastic)

January 5, 2006 @ 2:51 pm | Comment

Good one, t_co.

monocrat, I replied to you in the new post on microsoft, above.

January 6, 2006 @ 12:04 am | Comment

I condemn MSN for this immoral act, but I accept ChinaHand’s reasoning. I can’t see a comparison between views that preach hatred and violence and those that seek to stop intolerence and injustice. But then, MSN owns the service and all those bothered by it could take their ‘free’ custom elsewhere. Trouble is, google and yahoo are little better (in fact, yahoo for shopping its own user to the regime is far more actively immoral).

January 6, 2006 @ 3:22 am | Comment

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