Google.com blocked in China

Today, Nov 9, 2012, http://www.google.com and http://www.google.com.hk were blocked in China. It's the first time since we started tracking online censorship in China in February last year that this has happened. Here's what we know:

  1. The subdomains http://www.google.com, http://mail.google.com, http://google-analytics.com, http://docs.google.com, http://drive.google.com, http://maps.google.com, http://play.google.com and perhaps many more are all currently DNS poisoned in China. Instead of the real IP addresses, any lookups from China to any of these domains result in the following IP: 59.24.3.173. That IP address is located in Korea and doesn't serve any website at all.
  2. This means that none of these websites, including Google Search, currently work in China, unless you have a VPN or other cirumvention tool.
  3. Using a DNS server outside of China doesn't help. A lookup of www.google.com to 8.8.8.8 is also distorted, by the Great Firewall.
  4. So far you can still access other country versions of Google such as www.google.co.uk.

You can see an overview of different Google sites here: https://en.greatfire.org/search/google-sites. You can choose any of them and test them in real time to stay updated.

Affecting more users than ever

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were all blocked before they attracted more than a small number of users in China. We've argued before that the authorities didn't dare to fully block GMail since it has too many users already. Fully blocking Google goes much further. Google Search is only the second search engine in China (after Baidu) but with an online population of more than 500 million that still leaves it with many millions of daily users. According to Alexa, it's the Top 5 most used website in China. Never before have so many people been affected by a decision to block a website. 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? Check out reactions by Weibo users on FreeWeibo

Temporary or permanent?

The Communist Party of China is currently holding its 18th Party Congress in which new leaders of the party and the country are formally chosen. The fact that Google is blocked now is surely no coincidence. The big question is whether it will be unblocked again once the congress is over. We will closely monitor developments. 

By the way.. Analytics

The fact that http://www.google-analytics.com and https://www.google-analytics.com are blocked doesn't just mean that you can't access the web interface in China. It means that visits by Chinese users won't be tracked by Google anymore. Foreign websites using Google Analytics to track their visitors will currently track 0 users coming from China, whether or not their website itself is blocked.

What to do?

Many VPNs and other circumvention tools have been working poorly or not at all in the last few days. The free iPhone app OpenDoor is still working, though it has also suffered glitches recently. Another method of accessing Google Search is to use one of their other country versions such as http://www.google.co.uk https://www.google.co.uk or http://www.google.ca https://www.google.ca. These may also be blocked of course.

You can also access Google directly using one of their IP addresses. These don't appear to be blocked (yet). Here are some:

Follow us on Twitter to stay updated to the latest developments of online censorship in China.

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Mon, Aug 03, 2020

Announcing the Release of GreatFire Appmaker

GreatFire (https://en.greatfire.org/), a China-focused censorship monitoring organization, is proud to announce that we have developed and released a new anti-censorship tool that will enable any blocked media outlet, blogger, human rights group, or civil society organization to evade censors and get their content onto the phones of millions of readers and supporters in China and other countries that censor the Internet.

GreatFire has built an Android mobile app creator, called “GreatFire AppMaker”, that can be used by organizations to unblock their content for users in China and other countries. Organizations can visit a website (https://appmaker.greatfire.org/) which will compile an app that is branded with the organization’s own logo and will feature their own, formerly blocked content. The app will also contain a special, censorship-circumventing web browser so that users can access the uncensored World Wide Web. The apps will use multiple strategies, including machine learning, to evade advanced censorship tactics employed by the Chinese authorities.  This project will work equally well in other countries that have China-like censorship restrictions. For both organizations and end users, the apps will be free, fast, and extremely easy to use.

This project was inspired by China-based GreatFire’s first-hand experience with our own FreeBrowser app (https://freebrowser.org/en) and desire to help small NGOs who may not have the in-house expertise to circumvent Chinese censorship. GreatFire’s anti-censorship tools have worked in China when others do not. FreeBrowser directs Chinese internet users to normally censored stories from the app’s start page (http://manyvoices.news/).

Fri, Jul 24, 2020

Apple, anticompetition, and censorship

On July 20, 2020, GreatFire wrote to all 13 members of the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law of the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary, requesting a thorough examination into Apple’s practice of censorship of its App Store, and an investigation into how the company collaborates with the Chinese authorities to maintain its unique position as one of the few foreign tech companies operating profitably in the Chinese digital market.  

This letter was sent a week before Apple CEO TIm Cook will be called for questioning in front of the Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law. The CEOs of Amazon, Google and Facebook will also be questioned on July 27, as part of the Committee’s ongoing investigation into competition in the digital marketplace.

This hearing offers an opportunity to detail to the Subcommittee how Apple uses its closed operating ecosystem to not only abuse its market position but also to deprive certain users, most notably those in China, of their right to download and use apps related to privacy, secure communication, and censorship circumvention.

We hope that U.S. House representatives agree with our view that Apple should not be allowed to do elsewhere what would be considered as unacceptable in the U.S. Chinese citizens are not second class citizens. Private companies such as Apple compromise themselves and their self-proclaimed values of freedom and privacy when they collaborate with the Chinese government and its censors.

Mon, Jun 10, 2019

Apple Censoring Tibetan Information in China

Apple has a long history of censorship when it comes to information about Tibet. In 2009, it was revealed that several apps related to the Dalai Lama were not available in the China App Store. The developers of these apps were not notified that their apps were removed. When confronted with these instances of censorship, an Apple spokesperson simply said that the company “continues to comply with local laws”.

In December, 2017, at a conference in China, when asked about working with the Chinese authorities to censor the Apple App Store, Tim Cook proclaimed:

"Your choice is: do you participate, or do you stand on the sideline and yell at how things should be. And my own view very strongly is you show up and you participate, you get in the arena because nothing ever changes from the sideline."

In the ten years since Apple was first criticized for working with the Chinese authorities to silence already marginalized voices, what has changed? Apple continues to strictly follow the censorship orders of the Chinese authorities. When does Tim Cook expect that his company will help to bring about positive change in China?

Based on data generated from https://applecensorship.com, Apple has now censored 29 popular Tibetan mobile applications in the China App Store. Tibetan-themed apps dealing with news, religious study, tourism, and even games are being censored by Apple. A full list of the censored apps appear below.

Thu, Jun 06, 2019

Report Shines Spotlight on Apple’s Censorship Practices in China

The newest Ranking Digital Rights Corporate Accountability Index makes recommendations on what companies and governments need to do in order to improve the protection of internet users’ human rights around the world. Ranking Digital Rights (RDR) works to promote freedom of expression and privacy on the internet by creating global standards and incentives for companies to respect and protect users’ rights.

In their 2019 Accountability Index, RDR looks at the policies of 24 of the world’s most important internet companies in respect to freedom of expression and privacy and highlights the companies that have made improvements and those companies that need to do more. RDR notes that:

Insufficient transparency makes it easier for private parties, governments, and companies themselves to abuse their power over online speech and avoid accountability.

In particular, the report highlights how Apple has abused their power over online speech, and notes instances of this in China. According to the report, Apple has not disclosed data around the content that it removes from its App Store when faced with requests from the government authorities.

While [Apple] disclosed data about government requests to restrict accounts, it disclosed no data about content removal requests, such as requests to remove apps from its App Store. Apple revealed little about policies and practices affecting freedom of expression, scoring below all other U.S. companies in this category.

The report makes intelligent and sensible recommendations for governments. However, the recommendations also highlight how difficult it is to have these discussions with governments like China’s.

Thu, Nov 30, 2017

About those 674 apps that Apple censored in China

Apple opened the door on its censorship practices in China - but just a crack.
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Comments

my biggest beef is that translate.google.com was also down for quite significant amount of time. Now, since I was a mere mortal without sophisticated network monitoring algorithms at hand, trying to do some work, i couldn't tell how long it was out for. But i swear that it was down for quite some time. Which was pissing me off -- i mean, translate.google.com. Are you serious???

Thanks for your workarounds. However, none work at this time, November 12, at 20:42

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