Microsoft Probes Report of Russian Censorship Collusion

After a report that Microsoft attorneys in Russia helped suppress political dissent under the guise of anti-piracy efforts, Microsoft says it will investigate and make changes.

The New York Times reported Sunday that environmental-action groups, independent newspapers and political groups in Russia have been raided by the police, who claimed they were searching for pirated Microsoft software. Their computers were confiscated, effectively shutting down their work.

Microsoft said Monday it would investigate the allegations and donate software to nongovernmental organizations, also known as NGOs.

In a statement released Monday, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith said, “Whatever the circumstances of the particular cases The New York Times described, we want to be clear that we unequivocally abhor any attempt to leverage intellectual-property rights to stifle political advocacy or pursue improper personal gain.”

The New York Times report said an environmental group protesting Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s decision to open a paper factory near Lake Baikal was later raided by police, who confiscated computers under the pretext of searching for pirated Microsoft software.

The raid was sparked by a complaint made by someone whom the environmental group had never worked with, the report said.

A similar raid on opposition newspapers in Samara was also sparked by a complaint made by someone who had never entered the newspaper offices, the New York Times report said.

In the follow-up investigation of the newspapers, Microsoft’s attorneys appeared at court hearings to support the prosecutors, according to the report.

The groups claimed in the article that Russian police falsified evidence that software had been pirated.

Smith said the company will hire an international law firm to conduct an independent investigation and advise the company on new measures.

Microsoft lauded its public-private collaboration in Russia to combat piracy in a report distributed this year, saying it had driven Russian piracy rates down from 80 percent in 2006…

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