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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Rumor Control: Why I Can't Put 'Tibet' in My Hotmail Address

August 11, 2008

By David F. Gallagher

Bits Blog
The New York Times
August 7, 2008

A reader wrote in to say he had heard that Microsoft was not letting
people choose usernames with the word "Tibet" in them when signing up
for its online services. This turns out to be true, technically
speaking. If you try to select such a name you get an error message:

This problem tripped up the Australian author of a book on Tibet, who
declared the whole thing "a bit suss." This blogger cries censorship.

Big American tech companies have given us plenty of reasons to be
cynical about how far they will go to keep China's leaders happy and
keep their fingers in the Chinese market (see Fig. 1, Fig. 2). And
China's leaders would prefer that everyone just not mention those
unruly Tibetans, especially with the Olympics on the way. But would
the Chinese regime really feel threatened by the creation of, say, And even if it did, would Microsoft really
agree to help perpetuate that insecurity?

A Microsoft spokeswoman had a different explanation. The company
blocks usernames that include the names of various financial
institutions. This is meant to make life harder for those seeking to
impersonate a bank using an official-looking e-mail address in order
to steal customers' passwords. In this case Microsoft is blocking
usernames containing "tib," apparently to protect customers of TIB
Bank in Florida.

So Microsoft's take is that ILoveTibet and all variations on that
theme are just collateral damage in the war on phishing. But the ban
on "tib" also rules out many other highly desirable usernames —
BrokeMyTibia, AntiBlogging and NastiBoy23, for example. A wider check
indicates that CitibankStinks PayPalStinks and IHateWellsFargo are
also off-limits. Let the rumors of a banking industry conspiracy begin.

UPDATE 8/8/08 8:48 a.m. Various commenters have pointed out that
CitibankStinks, which contains "tib," was a dumb example. Others note
that Microsoft's list of financial institutions is not very
comprehensive or foolproof — "etrade" and "wells-fargo" both work.
But Svetlana Gladkova did a little survey and found that both
Microsoft and Yahoo block several well-known names that Google
doesn't. Everyone seems to agree that TIB Bank is not a well-known
name (here's another TIB). Meanwhile Scott Tibbs is feeling unwanted.

UPDATE 8/8/08 5:45 P.M. At some point today Microsoft changed the
signup form for its online services. Whereas before it would tell you
that your requested username "contains a word or phrase that is not
allowed," it now simply says the username is "not available." This
makes it harder to spot names with banned terms in them, so it's
harder to figure out what's on the blacklist. As a bonus, it also
sounds less authoritarian.
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