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MSN in China and censorship of the Chinese blogosphere

I’m sitting around my kitchen table this morning, watching the snow fall and thinking about the topics I’d like to research in 2006. High on my list of things to get smarter about is the Chinese-language blogosphere. As I mentioned a week ago, Chinese-language blogs appear to represent a huge and growing portion of all blogs on the Internet. Anyone who wants to understand what’s going on with international weblogging needs to start getting a better understanding of the Chinese blogosphere.

One of the few ways Americans hear about the Chinese blogosphere is when the issue of censorship comes up. My friend and colleague Rebecca MacKinnon has started her posting for 2006 with an update on censorship, apparently by Microsoft’s MSN Spaces service of one of China’s most controversial and prominent blogs, written by dissident journalist Zhao Jing, aka Michael Anti. Rebecca offers some pretty compelling evidence that Anti’s blog has been removed by Microsoft, not blocked by the Chinese authorities (it’s not accessible from the US or from China, which implies it’s been removed by MSN), and some more speculative thoughts about whether other Chinese blogging services are involved with “tattling” on Anti and MSN.

To his great credit, Robert Scoble – prominent Microsoft evangelist and blogger – has swiftly and unambiguously condemned MSN’s actions in this case. In his words, “Guys over at MSN: sorry, I don’t agree with your being used as a state-run thug.” Scoble has contacted the Microsoft exec in charge of MSN Spaces, and it will be interesting to see his response.

I hope that in 2006, we’ll start hearing more about what voices are actually saying in the Chinese blogospheres. But it’s critical that we also hear about who’s not getting to speak and how they’re being prevented from speaking.