China's Internet Censors Strike Again

Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on October 22, 2007

Google has confirmed that the search giant’s Chinese service was out of business for parts of last Thursday and Friday. “We’ve had numerous reports that Google.cn and other search engines were inaccessible in China last week,” says John Pinette, Google’s Hong Kong-based spokesman, adding that “traffic was being redirected to other sites.”

Pinette wouldn’t comment on just where that Google traffic went. But it seems the site that ended up receiving the Google traffic was Baidu, the Chinese search engine that is tops in the market and over the years has been able to win fans among Chinese officialdom for being obedient in following censorship rules. Baidu already has a big lead over Google in the Chinese search market (more than half of Chinese searches take place on Baidu, versus about 25% for Google). It doesn’t help Google’s cause that the censors seem to be steering traffic Baidu’s way, too.

Why the latest attack on Google in China? Pinette won’t say. But it’s probably no coincidence that the outage happened shortly after Bush met with the Dalai Lama in Washington. And with the Chinese Communist Party having its big once-every-five-years congress in Beijing, the government’s censors were already feeling a bit trigger happy. For now, it’s back to business as usual for Google. “Where this was clearly unfortunate, we are pleased that service has been restored to our users,” Pinette says.

The attack on Google - which also reportedly targeted Yahoo’s and Microsoft’s search services in China - is a useful reminder how little clout American Internet companies have with the Chinese. The government decides it’s peeved with Bush and what does it do? Take a whack at an easy target, Google.

The timing is also a bit inconvenient for the Chinese company that controls Yahoo China - Alibaba.com. The company is about to launch its much-anticipated IPO for its business-to-business subsidiary, a deal that might raise as much as $1.5 billion for the company. While Alibaba is officially a Chinese company, Yahoo owns 40%, and that foreign ownership still seems to have made some people in the government nervous.

Porter Erisman, a spokesman for Alibaba, denied that the company is facing any problems. “I’ve seen a few reports,” he writes in an email, “but Yahoo! China is up and running as normal in China.”

Meanwhile, a Taiwanese government spokesman pounced on the news. Shieh Jhy-wei, of Taiwan’s Government Information Office, “condemned Beijing for ‘daring so shamelessly to tamper with the free flow of information’ by redirecting the three search engines,” reports Radio Taiwan International.

Reader Comments

From China, with love

October 22, 2007 10:40 AM

My friend reports that youtube is blocked today...

enclee

October 23, 2007 2:07 AM

well I ,Don't think report is accurate.As an Internet user in Wuhan there is no problem using Both using Google.com and Google.cn with China Telecom 2M ADSL.However it is ture that YouTube has been pretty much "Harmonized".no access ever since the 17th big party.

Pit Crew

October 23, 2007 3:41 AM

Its unfortunate that companies have to get stuck in diplomatic squabbles. But such incidents go to show that business is not just business but actually business-and-a-bit-of-politics.

Sam Wright

October 23, 2007 11:27 AM

Bruce Einhorn and his usual jingoistic, anachronistic, nationalistic, statist propaganda bashing China.

Martin

October 23, 2007 11:27 AM

It's ridiculous to relate Dalai Lama with the traffic redirecting. The author has strong discrimination about China and Chinese government. Most members of China government are totally not good at IT and have little knowledge about computer and internet. They can use other reasonable ways to express their ire, not this way they could never imagine. You should know more about China, not only daydream at home.

Dennis

October 24, 2007 7:40 AM

But Google let Canadian Based Company Geosign shutdown. So China should block google and let other companys be able to grow.

JAM

October 24, 2007 2:46 PM

I was in China last week and for the most part had no problems using Google. Two curious (coincidental?) acceptions. I could not access a Reuters story on Hu. I could not access a report on elections in Taiwan.

Charlie

November 1, 2007 1:05 PM

Based on the remarks of some pepole here I suspect they are from China and have not been cleansed of their Communist Propaganda brain washing. You are so arrogant, yet so stupid!

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