February 21, 2006

China, Microsoft, and the Bloggers

Bloggers Who Pursue Change Confront Fear and Mistrust

BEIJING -- When Zhao Jing moved his blog to Microsoft's popular MSN Spaces site last summer, some users worried the Chinese government would block the entire service. The censors had blacklisted the last site where the young journalist had posted his spirited political essays, and he seemed unwilling to tone down his writing at the new address.

But Zhao, better known by the pen name Anti, told fellow bloggers not to worry. If the government objected to his blog, he predicted, Microsoft would "sell me out" and delete it rather than risk being blocked from computer screens across China.

He was right. Four and a half months after he began posting essays challenging the Communist Party's taboo against discussing politics, Zhao published an item protesting the purge of a popular newspaper's top editors. Officials called Microsoft to complain, and Microsoft quickly erased his blog.

The December incident sparked outrage among bloggers around the world, and in Washington, members of Congress vowed to scrutinize how U.S. firms are helping the Chinese government censor the Internet. But the reaction inside China's growing community of Internet users was strikingly mixed...

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