July 30, 2010

Google: China Blockage Levels Misreported

Google's search engine and other Internet services were back up and running in mainland China on Friday morning after what the company believed was online censorship turned out to be nothing more than a technical hiccup.

On Thursday, the company relayed information that the Google.com search engine, Google Ads, and Google Mobile offerings were being "fully blocked" by the Chinese government, and that the Mountain View, California company's news and image services were being "partially blocked" as well.

That turned out not to be the case, however, as company officials later reported that the blockage levels had been misreported by their tracking system.

"Because of the way we measure accessibility in China, it's possible that our machines can overestimate the level of blockage," Google said in a statement emailed to media outlets Thursday evening. "That appears to be what happened last night when there was a relatively small blockage. It appears now that users in China are accessing our properties normally."

The censorship battle between Google and the Chinese government has been ongoing for much of the year. In January, the search engine provider said that they would no longer filter search results to the 400-plus million Internet users in mainland China. Then in March, they essentially closed their Google.cn website, re-directing users to their uncensored Hong Kong website instead.

Google reversed that policy in June while attempting to win renewal of their Internet Content Provider (ICP) license from Beijing officials. They promised to re-launch Google.cn, and provide links to the Hong Kong site from the page instead of an automatic redirect.

Last week, Beijing officials announced that they had indeed renewed the company's license, effectively closing the book on the standoff. That is, until yesterday's reported blockage led many to believe that the Chinese government had changed their stance.

Web search, images, news, ads, and Gmail email accounts were all listed as fully or mostly accessible on Google's Mainland China service availability page early Friday morning. Mobile services were listed as partially blocked, while services such as YouTube and Blogger were being fully blocked.


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