Microsoft blocking words on China's Web?

Software giant is reportedly excluding controversial phrases like "democracy" and "freedom" on Chinese version of MSN.

Microsoft may have banned the words "democracy" and "freedom" from the Chinese version of its MSN Web site.

The MSN Web site is blocking anti-communist phrases by sending an error message to anyone using the words, in a bid to avoid upsetting the Chinese government, according to the Financial Times.

The message reportedly says: "This item contains forbidden speech. Please delete the forbidden speech from this item." The words "demonstration," "democratic movement" and "Taiwan independence" are also said to be banned.

Microsoft issued a statement via e-mail saying: "The content posted on member spaces is the responsibility of individuals who are required to abide by MSN's Code of Conduct, which can be viewed (here). MSN abides by the laws and regulations of each country in which it operates."

Only the main part of the Web site is enforcing the ban; individualized MSN Spaces apparently are not affected.

The drama is the latest in a spate of moves by the Chinese government to censor certain areas of the Internet. Chinese officials are currently trying to make people register Web sites with the state by July or risk being shut down.

Microsoft partnered with a state-owned company, the Shanghai Alliance Investment, last month to create the Chinese arm of MSN.

Dan Ilett of Silicon.com reported from London.