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MSN bloggers try to foul up censorship tool

If you can't speak freely on blogs, what's the point of them? So say some MSN Spaces users who make a game of skirting censorship.

MSN Spaces, Microsoft's new blogging service, has sparked a new game for some of its users: trying to circumvent its censorship controls.

BoingBoing, a popular Web log, on Friday reported that MSN Spaces is rejecting certain blog titles or URLs because they contain words that Microsoft has deemed inappropriate.

However, like so many censorship tools, Microsoft's is proving less than perfect.

BoingBoing found that all of the most obvious profanities fell foul of Microsoft's electronic sentries.

But the fun started for many users when blogs with tricky titles that resembled innocuous terms--think of a racier version of "tit for tat," for example--cleared Microsoft's censorship filters.

Getting a blog with a dirty name past the MSN Spaces controls may be fun, but it also illustrates the tensions between the traditionally free and open world of blogging and the more corporate approach of a software giant like Microsoft.

"If you can't speak freely on a blog, what's the point of having one?" BoingBoing pointed out.

These tensions are also apparent in Microsoft's approach to blog content. Unlike rival services such as Blogger, MSN Spaces forces new users to grant Microsoft permission to "use, copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, reproduce, edit, modify, translate and reformat" their blog postings.

Graeme Wearden of ZDNet UK reported from London.