Google disrupted as Tiananmen anniversary approaches

China has been reportedly clamping down on the service for the last four days

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
June 2, 2014
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(Updated to reflect comment from Google)

Google and China have had a pretty contentious history, for the last few years at least, and for good reason: the country has severely on censored the Internet, and Google searches in particular, because what could be more dangerous than a free and open exchange of information and ideas?

That is particularly true this week, which happens to be the 25th anniversary of the protest at Tiananmen Square, in which the Chinese military issued a severe crackdown that resulted in bloodshed and an unknown number of deaths. The moment was hugely symbolic, and a massive blot on China's recent history.

The country would, of course, rather that nobody talk about any of that, and so it has begun disrupting Google services in the days leading up to the anniversary, according to a blog post from, a website dedicated to reporting on Internet censorship in China.

The website claims that the block has been going on for around a week and a half now, and that report is backed up by Google's own transparency report. The data shows that real-time traffic activity in China has been slowing since around Friday of last week. That would be an indicate that there is some amount of disruption taking place.

Google, however, is denying any type of problem, with a company spokesperson telling VatorNews, "“We’ve checked extensively and there are no technical problems on our side.”

The last time that Google had a similar type of disruption was in November of 2012, according to GreatFire, and that was due to the meet of the 18th Communist Party Congress, in which the government appoints leadership. That block only lasted 12 hours, though, and now there seems to be some worry that this could actually be more than simply a temporary measure.

"It is not clear that the block is a temporary measure around the anniversary or a permanent block. But because the block has lasted for 4 days, it’s more likely that Google will be severely disrupted and barely usable from now on," GreatFire wrote.

Google and China had a fairly acrimonious relationship until early 2010, when Google shut down its search services in China, after the government used Google to go after human rights activists by hacking into the Gmail accounts of dissidents.

Google has not even operated in the country since that time, instead moving operations out of Mainland China and into Hong Kong, which allowed it to not have to censor its content. According to GreatFire, though, that just means the government does the censoring for them. 

"There are steps that Google can take to combat this censorship, which they currently choose not to. Google can tunnel through other undisrupted Content Delivery Network services to evade the block," the site wrote. "Google can also add censorship evading functions through its popular web browser Chrome. At the moment, even the start page of Chrome will not load in China. But Google can tweak Chrome’s code to bypass censorship."

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