Microsoft to set rules for government blog complaints

Microsoft has pledged to create rules on how it will deal with government complaints about websites and blogs hosted by the U.S. software giant.

Following concerns on how Microsoft pulled the blog of a critic of the Chinese government, Microsoft said that in the future it will only block access to diaries on its MSN Internet portal when it is presented with a court order or another legally binding decision.

But the blog will only be banned in that particular country.

"Going forward we will have a policy of removing access for the country where the blog was issued, but not outside that country," Brad Smith, Microsoft's chief counsel, said at a Microsoft conference.

Microsoft will find a technical solution to make sure the blog will still be viewable in other countries.

"We want to formulate a new framework and new principles. Principles need to emerge," said Smith, adding that the need for clear guidelines became imperative after MSN took down the popular blog written by Zhao Jing last month.

Smith defended Microsoft's decision by saying it had received an order from the information authorities in Shanghai, which Microsoft found to have legal authority to decide what can be published in China.

"That was one of the things that made us sit and think. (Now) it will be transparent what is happening and why," Smith said.

Around 3.3 million bloggers in China publish their Web diaries on the Spaces pages of Microsoft's MSN service.

Microsoft is not the only company struggling with China's censorship rules.

Last month the country's propaganda chiefs closed the outspoken supplement Freezing Point of respected newspaper China Youth Daily, and Web search leader Google announced restrictions on a new service for China to avoid confrontation with Beijing.

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