August 3, 2010

Google Question And Answer Page Shut Down In China

A question-and-answer page for Google's Chinese users was inaccessible from China on Tuesday less than a month after the company's Internet license was renewed.

A Google Inc. spokeswoman, Courtney Hohne, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that the company found no technical problems with the Hong Kong-based service. 

Beijing encourages Web use for education and business, but tries to block material that is said to be subversive and closely watches sites where China's public is able to leave comments.

Regulators block access to social networking sites like Facebook that pro-democracy and Tibet activists have used to criticize the communist government.

The company's future in China has remained unclear since the company announced early in the year that it would not longer cooperate with Beijing's demands.  Mainland China users can reach Google's uncensored Hong Kong site, but industry analysts say users might defect to local rivals, eroding its advertising revenues.

Beijing renewed Google's Internet license in June despite the censorship issue.  The country is the world's most populated Internet market, with 420 million people online.

Google launched a question-and-answer page that allows Chinese Web surfers to leave questions for other users to answer. 

As of Tuesday, the Hong Kong search page was inaccessible from mainland China.

Last week, Google triggered a false alarm when it said its access to its search engine and several other services from China were blocked.  A few hours later the Internet giant said its system for tracking Internet access appeared to have misinterpreted what was happening to its search, mobile and advertising searches in China.

The uncertainty of Google in China has helped out its rival Baidu Inc., operator of the country's most popular search engine.


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