Microsoft admits it removed the weblog of a dissident Chinese journalist, citing the company’s policy of abiding by local laws.

CNET reports that Zhao Jing’s blog was removed from Microsoft’s MSN Spaces site Dec. 31, according to investigative journalist and former CNN reporter Rebecca Mackinnon.

A Microsoft representative told ZDNet UK yesterday it blocked the blog to make sure its service complied with laws in the communist country.

“MSN is committed to ensuring that products and services comply with global and local laws, norms and industry practices,” the representative said.

Most countries, the Microsoft rep continued, “have laws and practices that require companies providing online services to make the Internet safe for local users. Occasionally, as in China, local laws and practices require consideration of unique elements.”

But CNET says questions remain as to why a site believed to be hosted in the United States must comply with Chinese law.

Responding to futher questions, Microsoft stated the company is “a multinational business and, as such, needs to manage the reality of operating in countries around the world.”

In June 2005, Microsoft acknowledged it was employing a filter that censored words such as “freedom” and “democracy” from its Chinese MSN portal.

In an e-mail sent to the British tech-news site, Microsoft said it has “the ability to change and update the filter, as needed, to help ensure we abide by the laws, regulations and norms of China.”

In September, Yahoo was accused of helping China’s state security police track down and jail a dissident. Reporters Without Borders said it had learned Yahoo was approached over the case of Shi Tao, a Chinese journalist. Shi, 37, had posted a copy of an internal Chinese government document banning media comment on the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

In 2002, Yahoo began restricting its Chinese results for queries related to the banned religious group Falun Gong. The Internet company signed a pledge to purge its Chinese website of material that China’s dictatorship might deem subversive.

China restricts Web surfers by identifying their origin through the Internet protocol, or IP, addresses of each machine.

Last year, Internet giant Google began blocking searches of news stories critical of the China’s government.

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