25 June 2009

Video: Google briefly blocked in China

25 06 2009 - Internet users in China were briefly unable to open Google's main sites late Wednesday, and the company said it is investigating.

According to many reports, the Chinese authorities have temporarily blocked access to the Chinese version of Google Search,, as well as Gmail, at 9pm local time. The sites seem to be available again now, but this is a clear sign that even Google is not untouchable anymore when it comes to Chinese censorship.

The dispute between CIIRC (China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Center) and Google – the only company usually considered to be too big to be blocked – began recently, when Google Search started appearing in CIIRC’s reports as a service that disseminates pornographic and vulgar information.

Although Google has promptly promised to do everything in their power to satisfy CIIRC’s demands, it seems that it wasn’t fast or resolute enough, as two of Google’s most important properties – Google Search and Gmail – have been blocked for several hours. The block has been lifted, but Google is no longer untouchable; next time, it might get blocked for days, weeks or months, just like so many other sites. Furthermore, according to some sources, the Chinese censors have even tried to frame Google, artificially pushing some inappropriate results to the list of the most common searched terms.

In some ways, this is good news. Blocking Google Search, the site that merely indexes and provides links to content hosted elsewhere, just goes on to show that everything on the Internet is connected in such a way that it’s nearly impossible to censor one part without censoring the others. Earlier, sites like Twitter, YouTube and Flickr were blocked; with Google Search blocked, Chinese censors are showing their true intent: they’d ultimately like to block every part of the Internet that’s not under their strict control.

It’ll be interesting to see Google’s reaction to this latest slap in the face from CIIRC. Surely, they will try to further cripple (they already removed the option to search foreign websites), but at one point it might become pointless, as the service will no longer be what it’s supposed to be: a search engine. Will turn into a site that links only to sites approved by Chinese censors, or will Google finally muster the courage to say enough is enough? We’ll see.


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