Chinese bloggers, even on foreign-sponsored sites or members of the foreign press covering show biz events, such at the recent STV - Shanghai Film Festival, should still choose their words carefully. "In fact," says Troy, "even, our TVI news director Bryan Lukus, had to get a special visa to attend and write about show events."
Users of the MSN Spaces section of Microsoft Corp.'s new China-based Web portal get a scolding message each time they input words deemed taboo by the communist authorities -- such as democracy, freedom and human rights.
"Prohibited language in text, please delete," the message says.
However, the restrictions appear to apply only to the subject line of such entries. Writing them into the text, with a more innocuous subject heading, seems to be no problem.
Microsoft's Chinese staff could not be reached for comment. However, a spokesman at the tech giant's headquarters in Redmond, Wash., acknowledged that the company was cooperating with the Chinese government to censor its Chinese-language Web portal.
Microsoft and its Chinese business partner, government-funded Shanghai Alliance Investment, work with authorities to omit certain forbidden language, said Adam Sohn, a global sales and marketing director for MSN.
But he added, "I don't have access to the list at this point so I can't really comment specifically on what's there."
Online tests found that apart from politically sensitive words, obscenities and sexual references also are banned.
MSN Spaces, which offers free blog space, is connected to Microsoft's MSN China portal. The portal was launched May 26, and some 5 million blogs have since been created, Microsoft said.
The Chinese government encourages Internet use for business and education but tries to ban access to material that it deems to be subversive. Although details of the authorities' efforts are kept secret, users of many China-based Web portals are prevented from gaining access to certain websites.
Internet-related companies are obliged to accept such limitations as a condition of doing business in China. And government-installed filtering tools, registration requirements and other surveillance are in place to ensure that the rules are enforced.
Recently, the Chinese government demanded that website owners register with authorities by June 30 or face fines.
Sohn said that heavy government censorship was accepted as part of the regulatory landscape in China and that the world's largest software company believed its services still could foster expression in the country.
"We're in business in lots of countries. I think every time you go into a market you are faced with a different regulatory environment and you have to go make a choice as a business," Sohn said.
"Even with the filters, we're helping millions of people communicate, share stories, share photographs and build relationships. For us, that is the key point here."
The consequences of defying Chinese government limits can be severe: At least 54 people have been jailed for posting on the Web essays or other content deemed to be subversive
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