China Censors Google Ahead of Tiananmen Anniversary

by Matt Klassen on June 3, 2014

While broad censorship is nothing new behind the Great Firewall of China, reports out of the country indicate that Google is the latest victim of the Chinese government’s heavy-handed attempts at controlling online content. Although the Chinese authorities have yet to acknowledge any such action against Google’s services, including search and Gmail among others, the company’s services have been inaccessible for several days now and it is believed the online blockade is tied to the forthcoming 25th anniversary of the massacre at Tiananmen square, where in 1989 the Chinese military slaughtered hundreds (perhaps even thousands) of unarmed protesters.

“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 four days, it’s more likely that Google will be severely disrupted and barely usable from now on,” the GreatFire.org advocacy group said.

Every year leading up to the June anniversary of the uprising the communist government takes steps to censor the Web in an effort to thwart any anti-government action that might be organized via the Internet and demands that Chinese-based social networking and communication services like Weibo or search services like Baidu ensure that censorship filters are in place. Just part of life behind the Great Firewall I suppose.

This isn’t the first time the Chinese government and Google have tangled over operations in China and the contentious issue of censorship. In fact, for the past several years during this anniversary period it seems Google and the communist party of China come to blows about something regarding online censorship. While Google doesn’t want to anger the Chinese communist party, the search company has long considered the Internet as a forum for free speech and expression, something the Chinese government wants to avoid at all costs.

While Google had once offered its search services in China, several years ago the search giant moved its operations to Hong Kong, hoping that such relocation would free the company from China’s censorship demands. As China demonstrated this week, however, it still clearly has the ability to block the flow of online traffic fromHong Kongto the mainland.

Again, although nothing has been made official, Google maintains that the disruption of service has nothing to do with the company itself. “We’ve checked extensively and there’s nothing wrong on our end,” a Google spokesperson said recently. In fact, as Reuters reports, “Google’s own transparency report, which shows details about its global traffic, showed lower levels of activity from China starting from about Friday, which could indicate a significant amount of disruption.”

I have to think, though, that soon the communist government will realize that controlling the Internet is like trying to hold sand in one’s hand, meaning that for every channel the government is able to censor, several more will unavoidably slip through its fingers. The problem for totalitarian regimes, however, is that even is such realization occurs it often fails to yield increased openness and free speech, and more often results in the government redoubling its efforts to control the masses, exactly what the world saw in Tiananmen square two decades ago.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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