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How Microsoft assist Government Censorship in China(4)

Posted by Author on September 5, 2006

Human Rights Watch, August 10, 2006– (cont’d)

Search engine: In October, Microsoft launched a search technology center in China and on January 3, 2006, MSN launched its own “beta” (test-version) Chinese search engine, at http://beta.search.msn.com.cn, which was integrated into the MSN China portal as http://search.msn.com.cn.103 Initial testing of the “beta” version in January by editors at CNet News.com showed the MSN search tool linking to a number of sites.

that are blocked by Yahoo! and Google search, including Human Rights Watch’s hrw.org, although there were some other sites not blocked by Google and Yahoo! (such as time.com) that were blocked by MSN search.104 (See Section III for Human Rights Watch’s detailed analysis comparing MSN’s Chinese search results to those of Google, Yahoo!, and Baidu.) Meanwhile, on searches that have been censored to exclude politically sensitive search results, the MSN Chinese search engine often (but not always) includes a notification to users at the bottom of the page which says: “The search results have omitted some content. [click here to] Find out why.” The hyperlinked text then takes the user to an explanatory page containing explanations of a list of features and potential questions related to MSN search results. Near the bottom of the page is the heading “When there are no search results or filtered search results,” under which is the following text: “When there are no or very few search results, please try a similar word or a phrase that describes the word’s meaning. Sometimes, according to the local unwritten rules, laws, and regulations, inappropriate content cannot be displayed.”105 MSN also de-lists websites from its search engine, as discussed in Section III and depicted in Fig. 11 of this section. Human Rights Watch has found that while MSN’s Chinese search engine turns up more diverse information on political and religious subjects than Yahoo! and Baidu, it censors content more heavily than Google.cn (see Section III for details).

Search on MSN Chinese “Beta” for “Gao Zhisheng”

Figure 10: Search on MSN Chinese “Beta” for “Gao Zhisheng” (human rights lawyer)

Hotmail stays offshore: For the time being, Microsoft executives have admitted that Microsoft has held off providing Chinese-language Hotmail services hosted on servers inside the PRC due to concerns that Microsoft would find itself in the same position as Yahoo!, that is, subjecting its local employees to official requests for email user data, with which they would feel compelled to comply. Microsoft has been successful in refusing Chinese government requests for Hotmail user data in the past, on the grounds that the data is not under PRC legal jurisdiction. (END)

– From IV. How Multinational Internet Companies assist Government Censorship in China,
of “Race to the Bottom: Corporate Complicity in Chinese Internet Censorship,” by Human Rights Watch

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