Media and Advertising

MSN Spaces: blogs for the kindergarten set

Thanks to Boing Boing, Rebecca MacKinnon and blogging Microsoft employee Robert Scobleizer, Microsoft's removal of Anti's blog has hit mainstream news in the US, with reports appearing on the Forbes website and many other online news sources.

This writer has in the past defended multinational Internet and IT companies with operations in China against similar criticisms because it is my belief that in the long run, these companies have made a positive contribution to freedom of information and expression in China, even though they sometimes have to make compromises that seem unacceptable in the United States.

So I do have some sympathy for Microsoft's dilemma. I myself own a business in China and live here, so I have to face the same issues. But I am different from Microsoft:

Firstly I have balls. Secondly, I do not have shareholders to please.

That said, MSN Spaces is trying to build a community of users. Their actions have displayed contempt for one of their users. They have behaved like a nanny who thinks she knows what is best for her children.

This should not come as a surprise to anyone: in fact it is MSN Spaces' basic policy to act like a nanny. Take a look at the argument defending MSN Spaces' censorship activities at the blog of Michael Connolly, an MSN Spaces employee:

...there are two main ways we moderate content on Spaces:

* Through the “report abuse” link at the bottom of every space. If you see inappropriate content, such as pornography, or out-right illegal content ... let us know and we’ll investigate the problem and take appropriate action...
* We ban a set of “naughty” words from blog entry titles, so those who are maturity-challenged don’t use the F word all over the place, and show up in search results and the updated spaces list, spoiling the party for everyone...

... We are an international service, and we work hard to comply with the local laws ... and local cultural norms (for inappropriate content) in all the markets we operate in... there are other guidelines that are more market-specific. For instance, the “middle finger” is a very obscene gesture in some areas, and is deemed culturally inappropriate, while in the United States, you would be hard pressed to see any photo of a bunch of college kids where one of them isn’t flipping the camera the bird. No harm, no foul. We don’t want to rule out the middle finger in all markets, so we just do it in the ones where it’s beyond the pale. And, even in the markets that don’t approve of the middle finger, we give the poster a friendly warning about the image, as opposed to taking the site down immediately.... (emphasis added)

Let's put aside the fact that Anti did not get a warning from MSN Spaces, friendly or otherwise, and focus on the policy of patronizing its users that MSN Spaces has made explicit, at least in the above quoted words.

People with maturity issues using the "f word" and "spoiling the party for everyone"!? Oh puh-lease.

MSN Spaces have made their attitude crystal clear. If you don't mind some faceless numbskull who works for Microsoft deciding what is appropriate for you to publish on the Internet, go ahead and use their service.

But if you think you are an adult and don't need moral or legal guidance from a company that is frankly in no position to offer it, find another blog host.


UPDATE: Isaac Mao is trying to organize a boycott MSN Spaces campaign for Chinese bloggers.

UPDATE 2: The New York Times, at whose Beijing bureau Anti works, has published an article (Microsoft Shuts Blog's Site After Complaints by Beijing) that includes the following statement:

Ms. Richardson of Microsoft said Mr. Zhou's site was taken down after Chinese authorities made a request through a Shanghai-based affiliate of the company.

Is she lying?

Note: this post's title was changed two days after it was first published. It was originally called 'Cherish Freedom, Stay Away from MSN Spaces'. The new title is a better reflection of the content of the post.

Links and Sources
There are currently 1 Comments for MSN Spaces: blogs for the kindergarten set.

Comments on MSN Spaces: blogs for the kindergarten set

I have a MSN "space" (dont ask why) I dont give a damn who reads it,I dont want people to "visit my space!" etc, etc. I agree with you 100% these spaces ARE indeed for the "kindergarden set".I have been amazed at the hypocrisy of MSN.They ban the chinese space,they have a new setting where you cant post an entry due to language...but you have no damned idea what was the offending word(s).
The only thing ive written about recently are porno sites which I have found or have been sent to me.MSN does NOTHING to stop these porn spaces.Oh well.

China Media Timeline
Major media events over the last three decades
Danwei Model Workers
The latest recommended blogs and new media
From 2008
Front Page of the Day
A different newspaper every weekday
From the Vault
Classic Danwei posts
+ Culture and corporate propaganda in Soho Xiaobao (2007.11): Mid-2007 issues of Soho Xiaobao (SOHO小报), illustrating the complicated identity of in-house magazines run by real estate companies.
+ Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship (2010.03): Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship at an officially sanctioned meeting in Shenzhen.
+ Crowd-sourced cheating on the 2010 gaokao (2010.06): A student in Sichuan seeks help with the ancient Chinese section of this year's college entrance exam -- while the test is going on!
Danwei Archives