Just as China, the world’s second largest economy, prepares itself for a congressional leadership transition, Web censorship sites
are reporting that Google
(NASDAQ:GOOG) has been blocked in certain parts of the country. According to an article by the Washington Post
, Google and many of its subdomains have been blocked by a “DNS poison.” When attempting to access Google, Chinese users are now led to a vacant IP address, making it impossible for them to retrieve search results, access gmail, or check analytics.
At the moment, it’s unclear how extensive the damage is or how long it will last, but the outages' timing suggests that the blackout will continue through China’s change in leadership. China has always been touchy about the information made available about its government officials, and Google’s decision to stop self-censoring Chinese sites
has frequently brought the two entities against each other. In 2010, Google closed its mainland search engine, after a hacker attack exposed the email accounts of human rights activists. Just last week, Google finished moving its servers to Hong Kong.
It’s also worth noting that Google wouldn’t be the first site to be completely blocked in China. Both The New York Times
(NYSE:NYT) and Bloomberg are restricted from the country’s Internet, the latter of which recently called on China to embrace a reform of Web freedom
Still, many are shocked by the blockage, as it seems like a bit of an overreaction. Although Google is a strong competitor in China, recent reports have noted that its usage has decreased as of late
. The aforementioned Washington Post
article features quotes from the Chinese website, Greatfire.org, which implies that the government’s action may end up being self-defeating:
“If Google stays blocked, many more people in China will become aware of the extent of censorship. How will they react? Will there be protests?”
The same organization would later tweet
that this could be the country’s first major steps toward separating itself from the rest of the Internet, which would likely hurt China’s image internationally.
Still, Web freedom and censorship are big issues for China’s leaders, and this blockage could easily become a major talking point as the country selects the men and women who will determine its future. It’s entirely possible that the ban will lift after elections end, but the fact that China was willing to block Google in the first place may indicate that the company and the country will have an even more strained relationship going forward.
No positions in stocks mentioned.