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Cablegate: Hong Kong Yahoo and Microsoft Block Adult Content

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PP RUEHCN RUEHGH
DE RUEHHK #0112 0201048
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 201048Z JAN 10
FM AMCONSUL HONG KONG
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9438
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC

UNCLAS HONG KONG 000112

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/CM, EEB/CIP, OES/STC AND OES/PCI

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ETRD HK TINT SOCI CH
SUBJECT: HONG KONG YAHOO AND MICROSOFT BLOCK ADULT CONTENT

1. (U) Hong Kong's major English daily, the South China
Morning Post (SCMP), reported January 17 that both
Yahoo.com.hk and Microsoft's Bing search engine in Hong Kong
were now blocking adult content through the use of strict
"SafeSearch" filters. Users of the Yahoo-owned Flickr photo
sharing website in Hong Kong were also reportedly prohibited
from posting or sharing adult content. Although users in
most jurisdictions are able to customize search parameters to
include or exclude adult content, Hong Kong users do not have
that option. The SCMP reported both Yahoo and Microsoft
attributed their strict filtering to their desire to respect
"local customs, norms and laws," and noted that both
companies enforced similar restrictions in South Korea, India
and Singapore.

2. (SBU) Yahoo! Asia Director for Public Policy Patrick Chu
confirmed to EconOff that Yahoo! did use SafeSearch to filter
pornographic images from its Hong Kong searches. He denied
the SCMP implication that this was a new policy, however.
Yahoo! had been filtering adult content since 2007, said Chu.
Hong Kong law makes it an offense to publish obscene
articles or pictures. In the wake of legal cases in 2007 and
2008 that resulted in fines for individuals convicted of
linking to or posting lewd material, Yahoo! decided to filter
searches to protect its local staff and directors, said Chu.
Yahoo!'s decision to filter this material was purely its own,
he said, and denied that the Hong Kong government had ever
contacted Yahoo! Asia regarding its treatment of adult
content. Chu insisted that Yahoo! Asia was committed to
internet freedom and did not filter searches for other
content. The SCMP article was the first time anyone had
raised the issue since Yahoo! Asia began using SafeSearch,
said Chu.

3. (SBU) Microsoft's Director of Legal and Corporate Affairs
Winnie Yeung similarly told EconOff that Microsoft used
SafeSearch to filter adult content from its Hong Kong
searches. Yeung felt the SCMP article was misleading since
the strict SafeSearch setting was used in several Asian
countries, not just Hong Kong. The reason was that these
countries were considered "more conservative." She insisted
Microsoft was not asked by the Hong Kong government or any
other government to implement filtering but then said she
would have to confirm this. She added that Microsoft had
used this filtering functionality since Bing's launch but
that the strict setting in some Asia countries was
implemented only in September 2009. Yeung stated that
Microsoft had not received any customer complaints or
inquiries about the strict SafeSearch setting used in Hong
Kong until the SCMP article appeared. She also noted that
her office had received inquires from the Hong Kong
government.


MARUT

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