After outrage from many of its own employees over its abrupt censoring of a Chinese blogger, Microsoft has formulated a new policy to deal with requests from a government that alleges posted material violates its laws.
The measures were detailed by Microsoft's top lawyer, Brad Smith, at the Government Leaders Forum in Lisbon today.
Smith said that Microsoft will remove blogs only when given proper legal notice, and even then, will block access to that material only within the country where it is deemed unlawful. The site will still be viewable from outside the country, he said.
Microsoft is readying technology that will allow the blocking of blogs just within a specific country, according to Smith. "We will act when we have the legal duty to do so," he said. "We will act when we are given the kind of notice that clearly makes that duty binding upon us."
Moreover, Microsoft will notify the owner of the blog that the site was removed as a result of a notice from government.
The unexpected announcement was immediately praised by Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and former UN high commissioner for human rights, who said she was "extremely pleased" and the move was of "crucial importance".
Microsoft's policy is a clear response to the wide criticism the company received over the past month since it shut down the site of Chinese blogger Zhao Jing, also known as Michael Anti.
After Microsoft removed the site from its MSN Spaces at the end of last year, the company was sharply criticised for aiding in the enforcement of laws widely considered rights to free expression.