“Prohibited language in text, please delete”

Once again Microsoft is helping Chinese authorities restrict access to the Internet.

Chinese bloggers, even on foreign-sponsored sites, had better choose their words carefully — the censors are watching.

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 immediately for comment. However, a spokesman at the tech giant’s headquarters in Seattle acknowledged that the company is cooperating with the Chinese government to censor its Chinese-language Web portal.

This is not the first time Microsoft’s complicity with Chinese censorship has been reported. Google, Yahoo! and News Corporation have also caved.

I wonder if the great humanitarian Bill Gates has lost even a moment of sleep over this.

Would it be a subversion of capitalism if the biggest Western-based computer companies agreed to provide no technology to China (or any other country) intended to restrict access to political information on the Net? Aren’t some things even more important than market access and profits?

(Via Demisemiblog.)