Google in China: Search outage not a glitch after all; questions remain

Questions remain over what caused Google's search services to go dark today. For now, fingers are pointing back to government censors.
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive

Special Report: Google-China


What was initially believed to be a widespread government block of access to Google's search services in China and then later thought to be a glitch on Google's part is now pointing back to the government.

Earlier today, users in China - who are directed to Google's site in Hong Kong - started to receive error messages when searching for any term, even those that aren't red-flag words for the country's censors. Initially, it was believed that the government was behind the blocked access, following Google's recent changes in China.

But then later, Google said that it was possible that the outage was a technical glitch on its part, created by some changes that resulted in a string of text that contained the letters "RFA," which is also associated with Radio Free Asia, which is blocked by Chinese censors, a Google spokesperson told the WSJ.

Following a closer look at the circumstances, Google has said the problem was not related to a glitch on its part but instead must be the result of some changes to China's censoring system, called the Great Firewall. In a statement issued this afternoon, a Google spokesperson explained:

Having looked into this issue in more detail, it's clear we actually added this parameter a week ago. So whatever happened today to block Google.com.hk  must have been as a result of a change in the great firewall. However, interestingly our search traffic in China is now back to normal--even though we have not made any changes at our end. We will continue to monitor what is going on, but for the time being this issue seems to be resolved.

Separately, the company's mobile services have been - and remain - partially blocked in China.

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