If you want freedom of speech on your instant messaging platform, you better turn away from Microsoft. The software giant’s Windows Live Messenger service has apparently begun blocking all links to online piracy haven The Pirate Bay. If such a link is sent through an IM, this message is received: “The link you tried to send was blocked because it was reported as unsafe.”
The Pirate Bay has become a one-stop shop for users who want to download illegal copies of TV shows, movies, music files, digital books, and more. Those with a 3D printer can even pirate actual physical objects through the site’s collection of 3D printable files. Of course, because of its reputation, references to The Pirate Bay are blocked on all kinds of online forums, discussion boards, and the like.
But to ban people from linking to it in private instant message conversations is quite a new step. In addition, classifying The Pirate Bay as “unsafe” isn’t really even accurate, as going to the site does not put any significant risk to your computer. Windows Live Messenger isn’t the most popular IM tool by any means in the US, but it is significantly more popular in other regions around the world, including many areas where the kind of piracy that The Pirate Bay promotes isn’t even illegal. Obviously Microsoft has full control over what people can and can’t send through its services, but many see this as going a step too far.