RSF: Google and Gmail banned in China

Some were speculating it was a June 4 thing, but it’s apparently more sinister than that, at least according to RSF. (I’ve had some issues with RSF in the past exaggerating the role of Cisco and other Internet companies in architecting China’s censorship machine, so I’ll take with a degree of caution.)

Chinese authorities have blocked most domestic users from the main search engine, a media watchdog said. Internet users in major Chinese cities faced difficulties accessing Google’s international site in the past week, Reporters Without Borders said.

But, the controversial Chinese language version launched in January, has not been affected. The site blocks politically sensitive material to comply with government censorship rules.

“It was only to be expected that would be gradually sidelined after the censored version was launched in January,” Reporters Without Borders said in a statement.

“Google has just definitively joined the club of Western companies that comply with online censorship in China,” the organisation said., the search engine’s uncensored international site, had previously been available to Chinese web users, but problems accessing the site had been reported across the country recently. It was blocked nationwide on 31 May, the statement said.

The blocking was also being extended to Google News and Google Mail, Reporters Without Borders said. A spokeswoman for Goggle in Beijing said that the problem was under investigation.

What’s Google’s incentive to stay in China if its products are blocked there? Maybe Google Ad revenues from justify it, I really don’t know. Even so, Google must feel betrayed after bending over backwards to please the party censors. If things don’t turn around, I’ll start taking bets for when Google ends the deal and stops offering the censored site.

The Discussion: 12 Comments’s definitely been hinky for the last week or so – but so has I’ve run searches on a number of non-sensitive keywords, had work at first, then stop, then swapped out the .com part of the URL for .cn only to get another “this page is not responding” message.

What’s extra-weird about this is that has been inconsistently available – mostly at night, but also during the day – over the last week. I don’t know if it’s a block; maybe it’s just a drunk censor flicking a switch on and off and on and off.

June 8, 2006 @ 1:51 am | Comment

A drunk censor, or maybe a very smart, stone-sober sadistic censor. I always found an element of sadism in China’s infuriating censorship practices, so irrational and inexplicable and logic-defying. The way you get your heart up and feel so great to see the site you love is available again, only to find it unavailable six hours later. That’s cruelty.

June 8, 2006 @ 2:00 am | Comment

(Incidentally, it’s working great at the moment.)

It is pure cruelty – but I can’t help but admire it sometimes. You look at stuff like the complete and utter expunging of June 4 from the historical record, or the general populace’s indifference towards politics, or any one of a litany of things here, and you just have to say, well done.

June 8, 2006 @ 2:48 am | Comment

I can still access Google in South China, albeit not very quickly. Forget most image searches: you can’t get there from here.

Perhaps the likes of Blogger News Network and others pulling their ads in protest had some impact on the turn-around statements.

I am a bit surprised to still see you running them.

June 8, 2006 @ 2:55 am | Comment has been down for some time here in Suzhou, but Gmail, while a bit wonky, is still working.

June 8, 2006 @ 5:28 am | Comment

Google has been working fine all day here. I realized I just jinxed things by saying that…

Yet, considering the way Google was working on-and-off this last week, rather than “definitively” off, this feels feels like a headline-grabbing overreaction from RSF.

And if today is no fluke, and Google keeps working like nothing happened in the last week — much like nothing happened on a certain day in June! — RSF looks kind of lame here.

June 8, 2006 @ 8:54 am | Comment

This might just be a temporary pay back for Brin’s recent comments to the Western press that Google made a mistake by going along with the censors.

June 8, 2006 @ 9:09 am | Comment

sadistic indeed. google seems to work, except when i need to look for something. NOW i see this is a story on drudge? so are they gonna block it or what? seems to work fine right now.

June 8, 2006 @ 12:45 pm | Comment

Brin made his comments before the block, whcih began on May 31. Next theory…

June 8, 2006 @ 5:58 pm | Comment

Google access was very spotty last week, but not in a way that would indicate a block. With a block things are ‘gone,’ not just on-and-off inaccessible. It is possible that the censors are trying something new (which, if so, may also explain recent problems with hotmail, MS Live) but I think this was more likely the usual June 4 crackdown.
For blocks, there are reasonably clear fingerprints that show up with ‘trace route’ and ‘ping’ testing. These were not evident last week. The censors could have been trying something new, but I have heard that there was a ramping up of filtering ahead of June 4 (as there is every year) and I have no reason to expect it was anything other than that.
FWIW: My POP e-mail account was also blocked on-and-off last week, as was AsiaPundit, Global Voices contacted me about a potential blockage in Southern China and there were various other problems that are now resolved.
They basically turned the filters up to 11 and caused things to crash. This, of course, damages China’s lame attempt to pretend be an open normal country and reminds people that the government has something to hide.
My assistant quite plainly stated, this year and last year, that the internet sucks this time of year due to the anniversary.
There are memorial demonstrations of the June 4 Massacare on the Mainland… every year the state demonstrates that they are a bunch of repressive berks.

June 8, 2006 @ 7:23 pm | Comment

No problems with either Google or Gmail here inGuangxi.

June 9, 2006 @ 12:16 am | Comment

Silly… You linked the article about censorship to the BBC, a site which is censored.
Back when my proxy worked I showed my students the BBC page that started by saying “Officially the Chinese government does not censor the Internet”.

June 9, 2006 @ 12:21 am | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.