Sounds like Microsoft's Robert Scoble may be softening his stance a bit. It seems like there are a lot of conversations and arguments going on internally at Microsoft that he can't talk about. (UPDATE: Robert says he hasn't softened his view; he's just trying to understand the other side.) Two other Microsoft employees have blogged about the situation here and here, defending their company's China censorship policy as a necessary evil. Click through those links, read their full posts, and let them know what you think. (Update: Mat Marshall at Siliconbeat has updated his report with an official statement from Microsoft. More justifications.)
I liked the reaction of Imagethief, blogging from China:
As for the "obeying local laws defense", I have criticized that in this space previously. Certainly China is going to impose unique constraints on foreign companies operating within its borders, and I don't think the solution is necessarily for those companies to quit China (not least because my job depends on them being here). But the question that situations --and excuses-- like this raise for American tech-media companies is this: where is your ethical horizon? Every country has its own laws and regulations. Some are more egregious than others. Some are indefensible. When do a company's values supercede its desire to make money and generate shareholder return? Does that point exist in the absence of public scrutiny? Perhaps some American tech-media companies would like to articulate what kind of "local laws and regulations" would push them too far?
Hear hear. Meanwhile, according to Forbes, Michael Anti's appeals to MSN customer service have gone completely unanswered. While MSN Spaces serves thousands of Chinese bloggers, they appear to have no China-focused customer service. Are we surprised?
In my view, this issue goes far beyond China. The behavior of companies like Microsoft, Yahoo! and others - and their eager willingness to comply with Chinese government demands - shows a fundamental lack of respect for users and our fundamental human rights. Globally.
Microsoft, Yahoo! and others are helping to institutionalize and legitimize the integration of censorship into the global IT business model.
Do not count on these companies to protect your human rights, if those rights are threatened by the over-stretching hand of any government anywhere on the planet.
If these American technology companies have so few moral qualms about giving in to Chinese government demands to hand over Chinese user data or censor Chinese people's content, can we be sure they won't do the same thing in response to potentially illegal demands by an over-zealous government agency in our own country? Can we trust that they're not already doing so?
When it comes down to interests of government vs. interests of the individual it seems pretty clear where their default position lies.
Will users and investors push for an attitude change? Can we convince them that disrespecting the universal human rights of users anywhere and everywhere will be bad for their business in the long run? Or will we all sit there like frogs in water being brought very slowly to a boil?