MSN Messenger censors links

I love instant messaging, and it’s a tool I use daily in my work and for keeping in touch with people. My weapon of choice is MSN Messenger and it’s all I need to communicate with a lot of people. I know, I know, MSN Messenger isn’t that nice on Macs, but most Mac users have Audium instead, so I get away with using a specific client since they usually have accounts for all different IM services.

What has really made me mad recently is that I found out that Microsoft is filtering links sent with MSN Messenger, all in the best interest of the end user. The approach consists of plainly just removing links with the text such as “download.php”, so the person in the end doesn’t get the message, without any information that something was blocked. This approach is so poor and annoying I want to scream!

If you want to force people to download something, apparently you just have to name the page “WindowsUpdate.asp” and it will always get through every filter… And the thing is, your MSN messenger contacts are your friends that you have personally approved, you can’t them and their messages to spam.

I haven’t found any good article in English with an official statement from Microsoft, but in an article in the Swedish MagazineComputer Sweden , a spokeswoman given the title Responsible for Communication Services at Swedish MSN has made this statement:

For the moment, through a real time filtering technology, we are testing to deactivate certain links, parts of link strings and files that have names that can pose a threat to the users. [...] is suspected, it’s then filtered by our servers and isn’t delivered to the recipient.

Please, Microsoft, listen: We don’t want to be your guinea pigs! Except for the laughable approach with string matching to see if anything they perceive as dangerous should be removed from a message, there are number of things you should see to right away if this is to stay in the product:

  • If a message is filtered in any way, the sender and recipient must be alerted about this.
  • It should be a setting if the filter should be applied.
  • The filter should, per default, be off.
Posted in General,Technology |

17 Comments

  • alexander says:

    I would recommend skype for IM. You can talk, chat and send files… all encrypted, no filtering whatsoever. By far the best IM I have tried.. downside is that not too many people use it.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    alexander,

    Well, I have about 85 contacts on MSN Messenger, and don't really feel ready to change that just b/c of this. However, I really find it annoying and think it's something they should change as soon as possible.

  • Chris says:

    I use Skype too and it is great! But 85 contacts is a lot… maybe some of them already have Skype?

    I know 2 IM systems that are compatible with many other IM sytems: one is called Gaim and the other is Trillian.

  • I also use Skype and I agree with Alexander and Chris that it is great. The problem with IM right now is vicious people who send links to virus and trojan programs in IM messages. Maybe Microsoft should get smarter and evaluate the link for a bad program before getting rid of the link.

    At the least they should show a message that says they have deleted the link. Something like:

    *** Possible dangerous link deleted ***

    To delete the link without telling the user is not polite.

  • Maarten Leewis says:

    I use Adium, with only one account. I have been using ICQ for about 10 years now. But ICQ hasn't updated there program in the past 4 years. So i found myself better of with Adium.

    I guess any IM client should evaluate a link and then suggest your options. I don't think any clients has the right to remove a link from a message. But it should be obligated to warn.

    (p.s Comment preview is messed up with code when i start a new )

  • micke says:

    IMHO Google Talk (=Jabber) is the best IM ever. It even supports offline messages, which MSN doesn't. I use it with Gaim and it's really stable and fast. On top of all this, Jabber is an open protocol not owned by some evil company filtering your messages without telling.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Chris,

    Yes, I know about the other options but I don't really like them. I like MSN Messenger just fine, the only thing I want to change is their behavior whein it comes to link filtering.

    When it comes to Skype, the only thing that has happened is that it repeatedly frooze my computer. Maybe just a bad day/build, but it didn't really live me craving for more…

    Tanny,

    Yes, something like that sounds good, but i also think it should be a setting that the user can change.

    Maarten,

    I'm not sure I agree that IM software should be obligated to warn. Sure, it might be a nice service, but then it really has to be customizable.

    Regarding the comment preview, could you please describe that more detailed or send me an e-mail about it?

    micke,

    I've tried it but didn't really fall for it. However, I do agree that offline messages should be supported in all IM clients.

  • Maarten Leewis says:

    Well let me re-phrase ; it should be obligated to warn when it wants to remove a link from the message. And it should be customizable. If the client detects a possible virus, trojan or malware it should at least give you the option to choose to remove the link, instead of making the decission for you.

    What is meant to say is that the choice should be up to the user and not the IM client. And i got the impression that was what Tanny suggested.

  • Faruk Ates says:

    Yuck! That's really, really nasty!

    I've never liked the MSN protocol, actually. I find AIM much more pleasant — particularly because MSN allows horrible display names that include icons and what not. I *reallyreally* hate that. Worst usability ever.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Maarten,

    Well, we agree about it being up to the user. Still not sure if they should be obligated, though. I guess it can be good for inexperienced users, but then it should be implemented with care.

    Faruk,

    Well, I really hate the AIM interface… :-)

    But yes, I agree about display names.

  • Miranda IM is a really simple client that can do a lot of protocols. I just downloaded it and had a look and instantly dropped both MSN messager and ICQ. It's that good.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Emil,

    Well, it sounds tempting, but I'm really relucatant to change. I just want to get rid of the filtering… :-)

  • Faruk Ates says:

    Robert,

    The AIM client itself on Windows is absolute piss. I always used Trillian because it was -somewhat- acceptable. Then I went text-only with Bitblee (a plugin for my text-only IRC client, irssi, that ran on a linux screen 24/7). That way, AIM was totally doable.

    On OS X, though, I just use Adium and it's been the most pleasant AIM experience ever, really. Also, I can just set my own aliases for people (MSN, AIM, whatev) so I never get discombobulated from those horrible display names that some people use. BLISS! :)

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Faruk,

    Yes, I hear very good things about Adium. perhaps I will get the chance to test it one day… :-)

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  • Lisa says:

    Does anyone know any webs linking 2 msn messenger

  • synt4x says:

    I think MSN removes links to TOR sites as well. I used to run a TOR exit relay on my server and ever since then, I can’t link to my own server unless I talk encrypted.
    I don’t even run TOR on the server anymore and I still have the problem. F***ing Microsoft always think they know what is best.
    I say screw MSN and Windows and Microsoft all together and use Mac or preferably some form of Linux with Jabber for IM. Such freedom with Linux.

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