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Friday, June 17, 2005


Microsoft censoring Chinese blogs

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Via pals in Hong Kong and Shanghai, I'm following with interest how MSN is conducting itself since its China launch last May.

The current censorship deal seems entirely in keeping with how big business appeases Beijing.

Whoever thought Chinese bloggers would *not* face restrictions? Or that terrifying words like "freedom", "democracy" and "demonstration" would be allowed through?

Now comes an interesting report of bloggers setting up a Chinese language Spaces blog (so you can see what the Chinoiserie looks like) and getting away with those very self-same verboten words.

Global Voices Online is the link - achtung, the screenshots are fine in Netscape and Firefox but don't show in IE, natch - plus it has links to the cool hack instructions, and a lively thread of chatter.

What makes this censorship particularly interesting is that China's economy is blasting away - something like 9% annual growth - and places like Shanghai and the SEZ (Special Economic Zone) just across the Hong Kong border look just like western consumerism gone mad.

Of course it helps that the gerontocrats are dying off and a younger government is getting its hands on the wheel - including some whippersnappers in their mid-60s who have come to enjoy their comfy middle-class lifestyle and increasingly less forbidden fruits of capitalism.

I saw in US News that China had 269 million cellphone users in 2003, heading for 500 million in 2008. That doesn't sound like a mightily oppressed nation to me.

Hence it's hard for me to grasp how this kind of blog censorship can exist side by side with the way the country's growing and prospering ... and with the brightest and best out there coming up with clever hacks for every barrier put before them.

I also note wakening rumblings of bloggy interest in the subject of China - I was wondering when the community would catch on.

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